Some medical services are being canceled as the CUPE strike begins day 2
Prime Minister Blaine Higgs said he was researching what to do to end the work measures taken by some health care workers and had not ruled out using the Emergency Measures Act to force them back to work.
Higgs made a press conference on Saturday about the strike by some CUPE workers, which is on the second day.
“I’m not going to overreact, but I will react as needed,” said Higgs.
“We will be assessing the health and safety implications as this will prompt us to review the contingency measures [Act.] … but I don’t want to use that loosely. “
Higgs said the government would assess the state of the strike over the next 24 hours.
He said many of the health care workers work in the COVID-19 screening and vaccination role but are not classified as key employees.
But he said they were important in containing the spread of the virus, regardless of how they’re labeled.
“These functions are necessary for the continued health and safety of New Brunswickers,” said Higgs.
Some clinics have canceled
As more medical workers hit the picket lines, at least one COVID-19 vaccination clinic was canceled. It was planned for Fredericton.
CBC News has reached out to the province to see if any other clinics or test sites have closed because of the strike, but has received no feedback.
In a tweet, Horizon Health said it “will evaluate health services and notify the public if there is a change”.
Vitalite Health has also confirmed that a flu clinic in Haut-Madawaska was canceled due to the strike today.
While some services have already been affected, the province wrote in a press release on Friday that contingencies exist but there are “no additional designated essential staff for the new services being put in place to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic”.
“Work stoppages aimed at COVID-19 services would significantly reduce the capacity of the health system to provide COVID-19 screening for hospital access, COVID-19 assessment and PCR testing, laboratory services and vaccinations.”
Higgs said he didn’t have exact numbers on how many vaccination or testing clinics were closed because of the strike because “it’s kind of random at this point”.
He said this will reduce the number of vaccinations, especially the third dose, but the province is looking at ways to dispense more vaccines in pharmacies.
Effects on the Province
In a statement posted on the province’s website, the government announced several other areas where the strike would affect government services.
The strike will delay laundry services in some hospitals and nursing homes in Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John. There are also delays in the ferries, the province said.
Starting Monday, all schools in the province will switch to online learning until the end of the strike.
Higgs stands behind offer
Higgs told reporters on Friday that he stood by the offer the province made to the union.
He said the province offered wage increases of 8.5 percent over five years, while the union wanted 12 percent over five years.
“We offered the employees a fair package,” said Higgs.
CUPE spokesman Simon Ouellette said CUPE President Steve Drost is in contact with Higgs but talks have not been successful.
“It didn’t get very far with the prime minister,” said Ouellette. “Unfortunately, he seems to have dug his heels into his heels.
“He’s not interested in offering wages that are above inflation, which is difficult to understand after forecasting a fifth straight surplus, and we’re talking about the people who are getting us out of the pandemic.”
Some medical workers join the picket line
Even more workers went on strike on the second day of CUPE residents’ labor action in New Brunswick, and some CUPE hospital workers have also left their jobs.
Bryan Harris, Treasurer of CUPE 1252 and Emergency Medical Dispatcher for Ambulance New Brunswick, confirmed that some workers at the location have given up their jobs.
Harris said he could not say how many medical services were affected by the strike.
“I’m in Moncton and it hasn’t made much of an impact here. I’ve heard a few things, but a lot of it is hearsay. There’s nothing I can really confirm.”
Harris said that while the locals are “100 percent” in favor of the strike, it doesn’t mean workers really want to be on the picket line.
“We would much rather do our job and do what we love to do, which is to help people. But we just don’t have a choice, ”said Harris.
These workers are located in health zones three, four, and seven.
Ten union residents are on strike and some have reached the picket line after the province withdrew negotiations earlier this week.
On Saturday, Ouellette said six locals are officially on strike.
These include school district workers, education workers, New Brunswick Community College and Collège communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick workers.
A letter posted on the union’s Twitter page thanked the New Brunswickers for showing their support for the action that began Friday.