Health-care union, province reach deal

As appeared in the Times Transcript June 12th 2017

170613 reach deal

Members of the New Brunswick Council of Hospital Unions, CUPE Local 1252, protest cuts in this file photo.

FREDERICTON • New Brunswick’s largest union representing health-care workers has signed a tentative agreement with the province for a new contract.

No details have been released about the tentative deal for just under 10,000 licensed practical nurses, paramedics, and clerical and housekeeping staff at the hospitals, but it comes on the heels of the government signing a new contract with the teachers’ union.

 Norma Robinson, the president of the New Brunswick Council of Hospital Unions (also known as CUPE 1252), said Sunday the tentative deal had been struck Saturday morning. About 30 locals across the province were notified about the situation Saturday afternoon, she said.

“The bargaining team goes in to get the best possible deal, and we felt by coming up with this tentative agreement it was the best the team was able to achieve,” she said in an interview. “It’s like any round of bargaining -- it’s not 100 per cent of what you want, but you accept it and present it to the members, and they’ll decide if that’s the best for them and the province.”

Robinson said she wouldn’t release any details about the agreement because it first has to be presented to the members, likely over the next several weeks once the documents are translated into both official languages.

They will then take a vote on whether to accept the deal.

Roger Melanson, the minister responsible for the provincial treasury board that negotiated the deal, said he was pleased to reach a tentative agreement with the council.

“Both parties worked very hard to achieve this and I would like to recognize those efforts,” Melanson said in an email forwarded by a government spokeswoman. “Our government is committed to creating jobs, growing the economy and improving the lives of New Brunswick families, and reaching such agreements is one way we are doing just that.”

The last contract was in 2013 and expired June 30, 2015. Robinson said it wasn’t unusual for the union and government to take almost two years to come up with a new deal because of the large number of workers, all the different professions and the issues at stake.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees has mounted protests recently about the Liberal government’s plans to turn over the hospital food and cleaning services to Sodexo, an international company that specializes in providing services to big institutions.

Robinson wouldn’t say if the tentative deal addressed those concerns, deferring once again to the members and their right to see the details before the public does.

Since coming to power in October 2014, the Liberal government has reached collective agreements with 23 bargaining groups. Melanson said in his email, “we are proud of that milestone.”

Many of the deals contained one per cent salary increases in each year of the contracts, lower than the expected rate of inflation.

Late last month, the government and the teachers’ federation signed a contract that covered 8,000 teachers, supply teachers, vice-principals and principals.