Province mandates striking health care CUPE members back to work

Krisi Marples/Courier CUPE members, seen here picketing on King. St. in St. Stephen, have been on strike since early morning on Friday, Oct. 29. On Friday, Nov. 5, GNB mandated striking health care CUPE members back to work, a move the CUPE bargaining team called "heavy-handed".

NEW BRUNSWICK – In a not unexpected move on Friday, Nov. 5, the Government of New Brunswick (GNB) mandated striking CUPE health care employees back to work as of midnight Friday.

The announcement, made in a live press briefing from Fredericton with Dr. John Dornan, interim CEO and president of Horizon Health Network, Dr. France Desrosiers, CEO and president of Vitalite Health Network, Premier Blaine Higgs, Minister of Health, Dorothy Shepard, and Minister of Justice and Public Safety, Ted Flemming, came on the heels of another failed round of negotiations between CUPE and GNB this week.

“Out of concern for the negative impact the strike in putting on the delivery of hospital services and health care in our system, the government has found itself having no alternative but to implement an emergency mandatory order (to force striking health care employees back to work),” said Flemming.

Flemming added the province had “no choice”, and “could not in all conscience not proceed with this unfortunate by necessary intervention.”

“We desperately need you in our hospitals yesterday,” said Dornan to the striking workers.

“The strike has made the situation facing hospitals across our province increasingly precarious,” said Shephard, saying the system already under strain by the pandemic was made worse by the strike action.

Higgs said the “situation” had “gone on too long” and the result is a health care system “close to the breaking point”, adding mandating health care employees back to work isn’t a move GNB “takes lightly”, and GNB recognizes CUPE strike action is legal.

In a statement release on social media, the CUPE bargaining team said of the mandate, “Instead of negotiating a fair deal for wages to fix staffing issues, Premier Higgs has chosen to intimidate and provoke workers.

“Now using heavy-handed tactics, the Premier is forcing health care workers back to work with an emergency order. Those that Higgs once called ‘front-line heroes’ are now being deprived of their constitutional right to strike.”

For more on the story, see the Tuesday, Nov. 9 edition of The Saint Croix Courier.