'Enough is enough'; CUPE N.B. members prepare for strike votes this week

Thousands of Public Sector workers in New Brunswick are preparing for a strike votes, as the deadline that Canadian Union of Public Employees N.B. gave to the province to reach an agreement expired Monday.

On May 28, CUPE New Brunswick President Stephen Drost announced a 100-day deadline for New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs to reach an agreement to make improvements for union workers across the province.

That deadline arrived on Labour Day, with an agreement still not reached with the province.

Now, the union representing about 22,000 public sector workers says its members are prepared to vote to strike.

"They've reached that point where they feel enough is enough,” said Stephen Drost. “They’ve given and given and it's time that they receive some fair compensation.”

Drost said many of CUPE’s members are struggling with the cost of living, and have been forced to take a second job or go to local food banks.

Drost says other members are having difficulty paying their rent, contributing to their determination to receive a fair wage.

"They feel that they are being exploited. They don't feel that they're being treated properly, they certainly don't think they're getting the recognition they deserve," says Drost.

On Friday, premier Blaine Higgs said he was 'disappointed with the union' after its members expressed that they were preparing for strike votes.

“The only issue has been five per cent for four years- 20 per cent increase, $158 million increase - that is not being reasonable,” said Higgs.

The premier believes the union’s 20 per cent increase was more than the province could afford, but members believe it’s a reasonable ask.

“There are huge holes and gaps and we’re starting to see the cracks in the system,” said Norma Robinson President of CUPE local 1252, which represents hospital workers in the province.

Robinson told reporters that hospital workers in the province are overworked and that they are keeping up with a system that is in “dire straits” due to recent staff reductions and temporary emergency room closures.

“That’s what’s really disheartening for me to see as the president is to see that this government is not recognizing the valuable work that we do and provide us with a decent wage increase that we so deserve,” said Robinson.

While the province said contingency plans are in place in the event of a strike, Drost says many CUPE NB members can begin their strike vote as early as Tuesday, and could be walking off the job by the end of the month.