FREDERICTON (GNB) – The following statement was issued today by Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard in relation to the ongoing negotiations with CUPE nursing home workers:

Our government believes it is important to keep New Brunswickers updated on what is happening with the province’s nursing homes. While the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes is the employer and leads negotiations, the provincial government has now accepted their invitation to be at the table during negotiations with CUPE.

While I support the collective bargaining process and workers’ ability to strike, the health and safety of nursing home residents continues to be my primary concern.

At present, negotiations are ongoing and it would be inappropriate to discuss any further details concerning the negotiations at this time.

Though this is a step in the right direction, I want to assure New Brunswickers that contingency plans are in place to ensure that care can continue to be provided in our province’s nursing homes. We understand that contingencies alone will not alleviate concerns, and only when the threat of a strike is ended will nursing home residents and their families feel secure that they will continue to receive the current high level of care.

On Saturday, a temporary stay order was granted by the Court of Queen's Bench for 10 days. With the exception of York Care Centre, employees in the other 45 homes are prohibited by law from striking during that time or until further order or directions from the court.

I reiterate that the reason we sought the 10-day stay on Saturday was to ensure the safety and security of the nursing home residents. When the union served the employer with 24-hour notice of strike action at 3 a.m., the provincial government had to react in order to protect the health, safety and security of the nursing homes residents. The stay gives residents and their families peace of mind that no legal strike activity can take place for at least the interim period prescribed by the court.