Some medical services canceled as CUPE strike enters second day

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Premier Blaine Higgs said he was exploring what needs to be done to end the action taken by some health care workers and did not rule out using the Emergencies Act to force them back to work.

Higgs made the comments Saturday during a press conference on the strike by some CUPE workers, which is in its second day.

“I’m not going to overreact, but I will overreact if necessary,” Higgs said.

“We will assess the impact on health and safety, as this would be the impetus to examine the emergency measures [Act.] …but I don’t want to use it lightly.”

Higgs said the government would assess the status of the strike over the next 24 hours.

He said many healthcare workers work in COVID-19 screening and vaccination roles, but are not classified as essential workers.

But he said they are important in helping to curb the spread of the virus, regardless of how they are labelled.

“These functions are necessary to maintain the health and safety of New Brunswickers,” said Higgs.

Some clinics canceled

As more medical personnel made their way to the picket line, at least one COVID-19 vaccination clinic was canceled. It was scheduled for Fredericton.

CBC News contacted the province to see if any other clinics or testing sites were closed due to the strike, but did not hear back.

In a tweet, Horizon Health said it is “evaluating health services and will update the public if there are any changes.”

Santé Vitalité also confirmed that a flu clinic in Haut-Madawaska was canceled today due to the strike.

Although some services have already been affected, the province wrote in a press release Friday that emergency measures are in place, but that there are “no additional essential workers designated for the new services put in place. place to manage the COVID-19 pandemic”.

“Labour disruptions targeting COVID-19 services would result in a significant reduction in the health system’s ability to provide COVID-19 screening for hospital access, COVID-19 assessment and PCR testing, laboratory and vaccination.”

Higgs said he didn’t have exact numbers on how many vaccination or testing clinics were closed because of the strike because “it’s a bit hit or miss at this point.”

He said it would reduce the number of vaccinations, especially third doses, but the province is looking at ways to distribute more vaccines to pharmacies.

Impacts on the province

In a statement posted on the province’s website, the government announced several other areas where it believes the strike will impact government services.

He says the strike will delay laundry services at some hospitals and nursing homes in Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John. There are also ferry delays, depending on the province.

Starting Monday, all schools in the province will switch to online learning until the strike is over.

Higgs supports the offer

Higgs told reporters on Friday that he stood by the offer made by the province to the union.

He said the province was offering wage increases of 8.5% over five years, while the union wanted 12% over five years.

Premier Blaine Higgs says he’s sticking to the province’s offer to the union. (Government of New Brunswick)

“We offered a fair package to employees,” Higgs said.

CUPE spokesman Simon Ouellette said CUPE President Steve Drost had been in touch with Higgs, but talks were unsuccessful.

“It didn’t go very far with the premier,” Ouellette said. “He seems to have dug in his heels unfortunately.

“He’s not interested in offering salaries above inflation, which is hard to fathom after he predicts a fifth straight surplus, and we’re talking about the people who… pull us out of the pandemic.”

Some medical staff join the picket line

More workers went on strike during the second day of industrial action by CUPE locals in New Brunswick and some CUPE hospital workers also walked out.

Bryan Harris, CUPE 1252 secretary-treasurer and emergency medical dispatcher for Ambulance New Brunswick, confirmed that some workers at that local have walked off the job.

Harris said he could not say how many medical departments were affected by the strike.

“I’m in Moncton, and there hasn’t really been much of an impact here. I’ve heard a lot of things, but a lot of it is hearsay. There’s nothing I can really say. to confirm.”

In a letter posted on the union’s Twitter page, CUPE thanked New Brunswickers who showed their support for the action that began Friday. (Roger Cosman/CBC)

Harris said that while the local is “100%” in favor of the strike, that doesn’t mean the 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 helping people. But we just don’t have a choice,” Harris said.

These workers are in health zones three, four and seven.

Ten locals of the union are in strike position and some have been picketing after the province pulled out of negotiations earlier this week.

On Saturday, Ouellette said there were officially six locals on strike.

These include school district employees, education support workers, New Brunswick Community College and New Brunswick Community College workers.

A letter posted on the union’s Twitter page thanks New Brunswickers who showed their support for the action that began on Friday.

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