CUPE delays strike votes, says province omitted names of eligible voters

CUPE New Brunswick president Steve Drost says strike votes for several locals had to delayed because the province provided incomplete lists of eligible voters.  (Jacques Poitras/CBC News - image credit)
CUPE New Brunswick president Steve Drost says strike votes for several locals had to delayed because the province provided incomplete lists of eligible voters. (Jacques Poitras/CBC News - image credit)

Some strike votes among Canadian Union of Public Employees locals are being delayed until Saturday because more than 800 employees' names were missing from the lists of eligible voters provided by the province, the unions says.

Eight of the 10 locals taking part in strike votes were initially expected to finish voting on Thursday.

Of those eight locals, five had names missing from the list of eligible voters.

"That's not right," CUPE New Brunswick president Steve Drost said of the missing names. "We're a very democratic organization and they have a right to have their voices heard and their votes counted."

Workers have been without contracts since between 2016 and 2019, and could strike by the end of the month if deals for higher wages aren't signed.

It became apparent that hundreds of employees' names were missing mid-way through the week after voting began on Monday, Sept. 7, Drost said.

One local had over 400 names missing, he said.

Initially, it seemed like "there might have been a couple errors," Drost said.

"But it was very quickly brought to our attention that there were a significant number of full-time employees that were not included on those lists."

The union alerted the province's labour board about the issue on Friday, he said.

On Monday afternoon, the premier was asked about the list issue during a COVID-19 briefing.

CBC NB
CBC NB

"I believe that CUPE were working off an old list from the labour board, but we provide them readily," Higgs said when asked about the complaint.

"I think what is equally surprising is that these are members that all pay union dues, and I would anticipate that the list of individuals paying union dues would be well understood by CUPE."

But Drost said that, according to labour laws, the union has to rely on the province's list of public employees, not their own internal list.

"I was quite concerned with his comments, because they're extremely misleading," he said. "These were lists that were recently provided to these locals in the past month or so."

The locals include more than 22,000 workers in the health care, education, transportation and agricultural sectors, as well as social workers, jail guards, court stenographers, and staff at Worksafe NB, the New Brunswick Community Colleges and N.B. Liquor.

Five locals had abnormalities in the employee lists provided by the province, with court stenographers and staff at Worksafe NB and anglophone community colleges locals unaffected, the union said.

The province left the bargaining table on Sept. 3 after an agreement couldn't be reached over wage increases.

The union has demanded five-per-cent annual wage increases over the next four years.

The province's most recent offer includes annual increases of 1.25 per cent over four years, and then two per cent in the fifth and sixth years.

The province was initially offering four-year contracts with no wage increase in one year and one-per-cent wage increases in each of the three remaining years last December.

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