N.B. nursing home workers file lawsuit over strike legislation


Three unions representing nursing home workers in New Brunswick have filed a court challenge to legislation they say places unfair limits on their ability to strike and access binding arbitration.

The lawsuit was filed on Friday in Fredericton by the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions (NBCNHU), the New Brunswick Union and the New Brunswick Nurses Union.

It alleges that 2019 amendments to the Essential Services in Nursing Homes Act (ENSHA) limits their ability to effectively strike, while also putting in place a process that makes binding arbitration nearly impossible to access.

“The ESNHA’s restrictions on access to interest arbitration are designed to maintain an imbalance in negotiating power in favour of nursing home operators,” the lawsuit says.

“In turn, this imbalance favours the province, which is a principal source of funding for salaries paid to nursing home workers.”

Simon Oullette, a spokesperson for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) New Brunswick, which represents the NBCNHU, says they are hoping for the courts to either declare the law invalid or provide an interpretation that gives workers easier access to binding arbitration.

“The process is so wonky and so badly written, to be frank, it’s not clear how we get there, and it appears to us in practice that we’re denied, in practice, access to binding arbitration,” he said.