'CUPE downplaying wage demands in the media': Sheppard

Dorothy Sheppard, New Brunswick's Minister of Social Development says the union representing nursing home workers is downplaying their wage demands as the two sides head to court today.

In a statement yesterday, Sheppard says CUPE has demanded an unreasonable wage increase of 20% over four years as well as additional compensation adjustments.

She adds, "The provincial government is open to funding wage increases to nursing home workers, but CUPE's demands are out of line with what 24 public service bargaining groups, including hospital workers who do the same jobs, have accepted."

According to the statement, the wage increases demanded by the union would give the provincial taxpayer a bill of $28-million more each year, at a cost of $7,800 more per nursing home bed every year.

CTV Atlantic reports a court will determine today whether or not members of the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions can go on strike if they want.

The province is expected to request a long-term stay against any job action.

A temporary stay order was issued by the Court of Queen's Bench on Saturday, meaning workers could not legally walk off the job for ten days, a move that lead the union to accuse the government of "sneaking around in the shadows."

(With files from CTV Atlantic)