NB healthcare workers turned away after return to work order: union

FRÉDÉRICTON –

Several striking New Brunswick healthcare workers were fired from their jobs hours after the province issued an emergency order dismissing them from work, the union representing the civil servants said on Saturday.

CUPE New Brunswick local presidents held an afternoon press conference to discuss the fallout after the provincial government announced it was recalling occupational health workers. The order came on Friday, a week after 22,000 CUPE members across the province quit their jobs in response to an ongoing labor dispute with the province.

CUPE Local 1252 president Norma Robinson told reporters the back-to-work order appears to have caused “chaos” in the health care system.

“It was not clear who should show up for work and now this morning we are receiving information that there are people who should not show up for work because that is what they are told at the door, ”she said, adding that some members were told they were still on strike.

The union is now asking the government to explain the parameters of the ordinance, Robinson added.

The provincial government has issued an emergency order forcing striking healthcare workers to return to work from midnight in a bid to help stabilize the system that has been overburdened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement on Friday, officials said more than 11,800 appointments, procedures and surgeries had been canceled since November 1 and the healthcare system faced delays in processing lab test results.

But Robinson said anecdotes from healthcare workers who are still working today tell a different story.

“We have had reports from people inside health facilities that it is not as bad as what has been reported by the government,” she said.

The province says the order covers all workers in CUPE 1252, who work directly in the health care system, as well as workers in CUPE 1190 and CUPE 1251 who work in the health services supply chain and health services. laundry and linen. This does not apply to the rest of the CUPE members who went on strike last week, a group that includes employees in the correctional and education sectors, among others.

The province issued a press release later on Friday, saying anyone who does not show up for work faces a fine of $ 480 to $ 20,400 a day. CUPE itself has been threatened with a minimum fine of $ 100,000 for every day a worker does not comply with the order.

Steve Drost, president of CUPE New Brunswick, said the government had not contacted the union since the decree was enacted.

Wages have been the central issue at the heart of the ongoing labor dispute.

The province is offering a wage increase of two percent per year for five years, as well as an increase of 25 cents an hour each year. He also proposed pension changes for two locals.

The union, however, said it fought back with a two percent per year pay rise over five years, as well as a further increase of 25 cents per hour for the first three years, followed by an increase of 50 cents per hour. in the past two years. The counter-proposal also rejected possible pension changes.

Drost called the government’s order and offer “outrageous.”

“It is simply a tool to interfere with the legal rights of these members and to be used as a punishment against these workers because they understand their value and they ultimately decided to stand up,” he said. .

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 6, 2021.

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