New Brunswick Public Sector

Workers Step Up the Fight for Fitting Wages and Working Conditions

More than 500 New Brunswick nursing home and other public service workers demonstrated in front of government buildings in Fredericton on April 12, to demand wages and working conditions acceptable to themselves. The protest followed many actions in recent months in front of constituency offices of governing Progressive Conservative members of the legislative assembly. The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) says the focus of the struggle of its 4,000 nursing home members is a demand for a wage increase greater than the rise in the cost of living. The union says this will improve workers' living conditions and help to attract and retain staff in the sector, which is badly needed.

Breaking the Mandate!

The protest was part of CUPE's "Breaking the Mandate" campaign. "Breaking the Mandate" is the banner of the resistance of public sector workers in defence of their rights. Workers are determined to break the mandate of the Progressive Conservative government and the previous Liberal government to dictate wages for public sector workers at about one per cent per year, which is below the rise in the cost of living. Workers declare this "mandate" is against their right to wages acceptable to themselves. In the nursing homes sector better wages and working conditions are needed to retain workers and to raise the level of care for many of the province's seniors.

The government has employed a variety of tactics to break the struggle of public sector workers, including using legislation and the courts to deprive nursing home employees of their right to strike to defend their demands. The New Brunswick government has engaged in propaganda to demean nursing home employees, portraying them as a cost to the public treasury whose work produces no value and makes no contribution in humanizing society. This attack on public sector workers attempts to pave the way to criminalize their struggle in defence of their rights.

Using outrageous accusations of public sector workers costing the public money and producing nothing, the government says their wages and benefits must be reduced otherwise the public treasury will be deprived of funds to attract private investment of the financial oligarchy through pay-the-rich schemes. Attracting private investment of the global rich is presented as the only way forward for the province and the very definition of the economy, something the ruling elite have declared not open for discussion or debate.

The government is duplicitous when stating nursing home workers' wages and benefits are a drain on the province's resources yet when workers fight for wages and benefits acceptable to themselves suddenly their work becomes essential and they are forbidden from going on strike through legislation and the courts. The Premier only considers nursing home workers essential when it comes to breaking their struggle for their rights and the rights of seniors to proper conditions and care. The government does not consider their work essential when it comes to providing nursing home workers with wages and working conditions acceptable to themselves and which recognize the essential value they bring to the province doing the difficult work caring for some of the most vulnerable people in society.

The New Brunswick government refuses to recognize that public services are a crucial sector of a modern economy, that public sector workers create immense value for the economy and contribute greatly in humanizing society. In opposition, working people recognize the value public sector workers create and demand that it be realized by other sectors of the economy and returned to the institutions that deliver those essential public services.

Public sector workers refuse to accept the abuse of the government and their criminalization. They are stepping up their fight for what belongs to them by right and for modern working conditions that allow them to deliver the services the people deserve and society requires. All working people should stand with them in this important struggle.

This article was published in

Number 14 - April 18, 2019

Article Link:
New Brunswick Public Sector: Workers Step Up the Fight for Fitting Wages and Working Conditions


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