NB CUPE strike closes vaccine clinics on Saturday


New Brunswick Prime Minister Blaine Higgs says he is examining his chances of ending a strike by 22,000 CUPE members in the province after the job action affected health care on Saturday.

Higgs told reporters during an afternoon press conference that he could use the province’s Emergency Measures Act to force employees back to work, but it will take the next 24 hours to weigh his options.

Medical services in New Brunswick have been hit by a public sector strike.

Higgs said the affected medical services include vaccination clinics for both COVID-19 and flu shots.

At least one COVID-19 vaccination clinic has been closed in Fredericton. Higgs said those affected will be sent to a pharmacy.

Higgs said the strike also meant COVID-19 screens were not available at some hospitals and other facilities.

The availability of third doses will also be affected due to the strike.

It comes after the union, which represents 22,000 civil servants, went on strike on Friday morning.

The strikers include school bus drivers, custodians, mechanics, some health care workers in rehabilitation and therapy, education support staff, transport and infrastructure workers and community college workers.

Members say they receive a lot of support from the public.

“We have had a few negative reactions, but I would say that 99 percent of people seem to support us and tell us that they support why we are here,” said Tom Langille, a teaching assistant on strike.

“We have a hard time recruiting and retaining social workers, our workloads are excessively high with high burnout rates,” said Jeannine Bourque, a social worker.

On Friday, Education Minister Dominic Cardy announced that all schools in New Brunswick will switch to online learning from Monday.

Steve Drost, president of the New Brunswick branch of the CUPE, said the union’s 22,000 members have not had a proper pay rise in 15 years and remain among the lowest paid in the country.

None of the sides move, which means that workers take turns from kl. 6.00 to kl. 22.00

Before the negotiations broke down, the union sought a 12 percent increase over four years without conditions. The government confirmed on Thursday that it is offering a wage increase of 8.5 percent over a five-year period.

Higgs has said the government’s offer is similar to agreements reached in the fall with three other negotiating units. Likewise, his government has promised to increase the wages of freelancers by 20 percent, improve pension coverage and provide an average of $ 3,200 retroactively.

The union has pointed out that the government announced its fourth budget surplus in a row earlier this month.

CUPE representatives say they will be in different places over the weekend and they expect the strike to continue next week.

-With files from The Canadian Press

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