N.B. nursing home workers end sit in at department offices

Holding hands, CUPE members exited the front doors of the Social Development building in Downtown Fredericton on Saturday afternoon, ending more than three days and nights of a sit-in protest.

“We came here, and we made our point,” said Sharon Teare, a representative from the N.B. Council of Nursing Home Unions. “Now our actions need to go into a different direction because we have a well laid out plan.”

The executives of the N.B. Council of Nursing Home Unions who were camped out inside were met by a large crowd of supporters outside of 551 King St.

“We were asking for them to actually hear from us, so they could hear the truth of what’s happening at the table,” said Teare. “That’s all we asked for, to know the truth.”

Minister Dorothy Shephard said in a statement that she or the Premier wouldn’t talk with CUPE while they’re occupying government offices.

“It shows a lack of respect,” adds Patrick Colford, President of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour. “One of their asks when they were in there was a simple phone call to talk. It’s very shameful.”

Nursing home workers in New Brunswick have been without a contract for 30 months. As it stands, they are legally prevented from going on strike, however that decision is subject to a juridical review on May 24.

CUPE says they will be going back to the negotiating table this Thursday, and the province says there is an enhanced offer on the table.

However, Sharon Teare says they have yet to see that offer.

In the meantime, Minister Dorothy Shephard says she is glad to see the sit-in come to an end, and is hoping for a quick resolution.

Shephard says the Premier was in contact with CUPE after they exited the building.

“I think everyone will be happy when we get to the other side of this,” said Shephard. “We’re very hopeful that we can talk about skill mix, that we can talk about the things they want; better working conditions, and we’re hopeful these conversations can happen.”

While the occupation at the Department of Health offices may have come to an end on Saturday, CUPE says that they won’t be backing down from the negotiation table anytime soon.