- Striking healthcare workers in New Brunswick, who are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
- The injunction affects almost 200 laundry workers and 48 individuals in the supply chain that serves hospitals.
- Workers in the healthcare industry who fail to work on time might face fines ranging from $480 to $20,400 each day.
Healthcare workers in localities 1252, 1190, and 1251, which represent support staff in immunisation clinics and hospitals and those providing laundry services to hospitals and nursing homes, are affected by the order released by the justice minister on Friday.
“They decided to go back to work this morning because it was an order,” Norma Robinson, president of Local 1252, explained.
Robinson’s local represents hospital support and maintenance workers, including almost 2,000 who have been ordered to return to work.
The local has roughly 9,000 members, with 70% of them working throughout the strike because the province deems them vital.
The injunction affects almost 200 laundry workers and 48 individuals in the supply chain that serves hospitals.
“I simply want to express how disappointed and angry our members are with the application of the Emergency Measures Act,” Chris Curran, president of the laundry workers’ union, said.
“Members feel as if their right to strike has been taken away from them.”
Hospitals never contacted Curran’s community to say that services had reached emergency levels, although the person would have been willing to help if required.
Only striking healthcare workers are covered by the order, separate from the existing COVID-19 obligatory mandate. Thus, school employees, jail guards, court stenographers, and other strikers are unaffected and are free to continue their strikes.
Noncompliance is punishable by hefty fines.
Workers in the healthcare industry who fail to work on time might face fines ranging from $480 to $20,400 each day. In addition, fines may be imposed on anyone who encourages workers to strike.
“Moreover, CUPE will be fined a minimum of $100,000 for each day a worker fails to comply with the obligatory order,” the government said in a statement released Friday.
According to the statement, hospitals can assign non-bargaining staff or contract out the work to ensure continued services if necessary.
The CEOs of the province’s two health authorities said they requested the order out of concern for patients, including those who have had essential surgeries cancelled, during a press conference Friday afternoon.
By early Saturday afternoon, both health agencies had issued news statements congratulating the workers on their return. In addition, the Vitalité Health Network stated that hospital conditions are improving and that they will endeavour to improve hospital capacity for surgeries in the following days.
According to a release issued Saturday, the province has not received any instances of personnel failing to show up for their shifts from either health network.
Despite being scheduled, Robinson claims that several of her members, particularly many in the Campbellton area, have been turned away from their hospital duties by management.
She explained, “They were notified this morning that they were not included in this mandatory order.”
The CBC has contacted Vitalité for comment.
CUPE is looking into legal options.
Although healthcare workers cooperate with the order, CUPE president Steve Drost said the union’s lawyers are looking into how they might contest it.
He stressed that existing laws are in place to ensure that vital workers remain on the job during strike action, calling the obligatory order “outrageous.”
In an afternoon press conference on Saturday, Drost said, “It’s simply an instrument that was utilised to tamper with these members’ legal rights.”
The union is also trying to figure out who is affected by the order among its members.
“The unions have been following this directive,” Drost said in an interview, “but there are a lot of uncertainties about who it applies to and who it doesn’t.”
According to the union, the province has yet to respond to the union’s counter-offer, which was given after Friday’s talks.
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