N.B. nursing home protesters crash Progressive Conservative meeting in Blaine Higgs’ home riding

Nursing home workers trapped in an ongoing labour dispute with the New Brunswick government have continued efforts to make sure they’re heard.

More than 200 demonstrators crashed a Progressive Conservative event in Premier Blaine Higgs’ home riding in Quispamsis, N.B., on Monday.

Workers are upset with the ongoing dispute between the province and thousands of nursing home workers, specifically the recently rejected offer of binding arbitration with parameters, which was floated by the minority government.

Wages are one of the “out-front issues” right now, and it was the basis for an exchange caught on video between a protester and the premier on Monday.

“You tell me why I have a sister that works for a company in Alberta and she makes $10 more than I do an hour,” one of the protestors is recorded saying to Higgs.

The premier replied: “In Alberta, that may be true. If you want that kind of wage then Alberta’s where to get it.”

Sharon Teare, head of the nursing home workers’ union, says even if the government believes it can’t afford the wage increase that might be awarded through normal binding arbitration, that wasn’t the place to say it.

“I don’t believe that fixing the inability to pay by sending our workers who want a comparable wage out to Alberta is the right response coming from our premier,” said Teare.

The premier’s concern over the potential results of regular binding arbitration isn’t holding water with nursing home workers in Saint John, either.

“Let me tell you, every taxpayer out here in the Saint John area that we’ve heard from … they’ve had some kind of interaction with nursing homes, and they’re saying: ‘[Premier] Blaine [Higgs], we don’t care, pay them it, they’re worth it,’” said Tammy Nadeau, president of CUPE Local 1603 at Rocmaura Nursing Home.

CUPE has also continued to apply pressure through both its presence and its advertising — publishing a full-page ad on the front of Tuesday’s provincial newspaper outlining the union’s position.

The province says last week’s offer of conditional binding arbitration was an improvement, using wages of similar jobs in the New Brunswick public and private sectors as factors.

Teare says there may be some movement on this issue in the coming days. She’s been told to expect something new from the government by the end of the week.

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