In a virtual news conference Monday, CUPE called on the New Brunswick government to "properly recognize" work done by the province's licensed practical nurses.
The group wants better wages and working conditions.
"The health care system relies heavily on the work of LPNs for hospital and extra-mural care. Despite this, the N.B. government still refuses to recognize the importance and scope of this profession in the health care system today," said Norma Robinson, president of CUPE Local 1252, in a news release after the conference.
She said the province is "on the verge of a recruitment and retention crisis."
When asked about the comments during Monday's daily COVID-19 briefing, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said "every single province in the country" is in the same position.
"It is no secret that in the health-care sector, we have a shortage of health-care professionals in almost every single category," she said.
She said she understands the LPNs' "angst" at wanting to meet and she has no objections to doing so.
Shephard said she wants to "have all the information that I need before that kind of a meeting takes place." She said a meeting "won't be in the too-far future."
On Monday, CUPE called on the government to immediately:
Complete a joint job evaluation process to help LPNs get paid for the full scope of the work they do.
Give LPNs the right to call themselves nurses (in New Brunswick, only registered nurses have that right).
Pay them the same as the other Atlantic provinces (LPNs in New Brunswick make $5 less per hour than their Nova Scotia counterparts, for example).
Scrap "imposed wage freezes and wage restriction mandates on all public sector workers."
The press release from CUPE says LPNs provide "much more than basic patient care."
"CUPE Local 1252 notes that the scope of practice of LPNs is 90 per cent that of a Registered Nurse in NB, however LPNs only make 64 per cent of an RN's hourly wage."
Robinson said, ""Recently, LPNs have raised their concerns with media, on how there could be an exodus of workers if nothing is done, and I agree: if the government fails to act, the staffing situation will worsen."
LPNs have also talked publicly about their dissatisfaction with CUPE and have recently called on the government to meet to discuss allowing them to leave CUPE and join another union.
About 85 per cent of the province's roughly 2,000 hospital LPNs voted to leave, but earlier this month, the New Brunswick Labour and Employment Board rejected the application.
Marc Paradis, a Moncton LPN who helped lead the effort to leave CUPE, said the union's recent efforts don't change his mind about wanting to leave.
In fact, it just reinforces his resolve. He said all of the things that CUPE is asking the government to do immediately are things the union has been asking for years.
"She just made our point for us," said Paradis.
He said CUPE hasn't been able to rectify any of those issues.
"I consider that a failure of the union," said Paradis.
The LPNs have asked government to meet to discuss a legislative amendment to classify them as their own stand-alone group.
Roughly half of the province's LPNs work for health authorities in New Brunswick and are represented by CUPE Local 1252. The other half work mainly in long-term and special-care homes.