Okay, there’s a lot to unpack this week and not much space to do it, so lets jump right in the deep end; the CUPE/GNB bargaining stalemate.
I’ve watched all the press briefings, read all the statements and letters, and talked to CUPE members. I’ve reached out to several people in leadership positions in this game including MLA’s and received replies from precisely zero.
So, here’s my take. CUPE is looking for tangible wage increases, and wants their pensions left alone. The province has offered wage increases, contingent on CUPE allowing GNB to meddle in the pension plans.
Over the last week I’ve heard consistency from both sides; CUPE says the battleground is wages, GNB says it’s wages and pensions under the auspices of wanting to ensure all CUPE locals have sustainable pension plans.
Here’s the thing. If these CUPE locals are happy managing their own pension schemes, whether they appear sustainable to government number crunchers or not, is it not far more important to get them back to work than argue the point?
GNB offered a wage increase of 15 per cent over five years, amounting to millions of dollars on the backs of taxpayers. CUPE countered and said how about 10 per cent over five years and you leave our pensions out of it.
I have a degree in philosophy, not business, but it would seem to me to be a no brainer. GNB; take the damn deal.
I don’t care if the province doesn’t think Locals 1253 and 2745 (education sector staff) have sustainable pension plans. The members of the CUPE bargaining team say stay out of it, so fine. Lets stay out of it. I’m sure there is someone in the know who will write and tell me how these pension plans ultimately impact taxpayers anyway, but frankly, if we look at the big picture here, having schools open and people back on the job because they agreed to be and not mandated to be, does that not offer a better overall result for New Brunswickers?
I’m on that list of non-urgent surgeries. I’m betting on the heels of this melee it’ll be two years before I see a surgeon again; a thought that has had me more than once threaten to use my veterinary skills to do it myself.
If the province is so concerned with the health and welfare of New Brunswickers, then leave this pension fight for another day. Get these striking CUPE locals back to work where they have repeatedly stated they are happy to be if their pension plans are left alone.
The fact the province simply isn’t willing to back down on pensions without as yet offering a particularly compelling argument as to why can only lead me to believe its position has some nefarious underlying reasoning not being made public. Access to the funds in those existing pension plans? Access to the funds of the government managed funds? One CUPE member told me that’s what he sees as the goal, and I can’t say I’ve seen any evidence to refute his claim.
I don’t care at this juncture if the province is right and the current pension schemes for the education sector are demonstrably unsustainable. They said leave it alone and we’ll go back to work for less than what you offered.
It’s time the province agreed to do just that.