Province says some workers may not see back pay until end of June

·2 min read
Provincial government employees, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, shown on Mountain Road in Moncton as a strike began in October 2021. (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)
Provincial government employees, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, shown on Mountain Road in Moncton as a strike began in October 2021. (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)

After missing several deadlines, New Brunswick government says some of its employees owed back pay under new collective agreements may not see the money until next month.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees says members of three locals representing provincial employees are still owed retroactive pay under contracts reached following a strike last fall.

The province was required to issue the payments within 90 days of the execution of the contracts, which occurred in December.

Simon Ouellette, a spokesperson for CUPE, said Thursday the province failed to meet timelines to pay for work already done by union members.

"The province has been breaking its own law for quite some days now, for months," Ouellette said.

The province says the process has been complicated because calculating pay requires manually checking hours worked for thousands of employees.

Locals affected include 1190, 1251 and 1418, which have tradespeople and repair workers, correctional officers, human service workers, laundry and custodial workers, rehabilitation and therapy workers.

In some cases, the retroactive pay goes back about five years.

The province asked the New Brunswick Labour and Employment Board for a one-week extension in March, but then missed that timeline.

The same month, CUPE filed complaints about the delay with the board.

An order issued May 6 by board chair David Mombourquette says the province "failed to meet the onus of establishing the reasonableness of its requested extensions" but granted a further extension to May 9.

Ouellette said the province missed that timeline.

"The province has failed to comply with the board order since this Monday," Ouellette said.

Jacques Poitras/CBC News
Jacques Poitras/CBC News

Mary Wilson, the minister of Service New Brunswick, which is tasked with administering that work, told the legislature on Friday that 21 additional staff have been hired for the work.

Ouellette said CUPE believes the province should have known it would require significant work once new contracts were reached and prepared accordingly.

Premier Blaine Higgs, asked about that, agreed it likely could have been foreseen but reiterated the issue was the amount of work involved.

Both Wilson and Higgs offered new timelines to complete the retroactive payments.

Higgs told reporters the province is targeting May 19 for casual employees, but longer for others.

"Everything is supposed to be done by the end of June," Higgs said.

Ouellette said the union is seeking compensation for workers affected by delayed payment. It's not clear how much the union is seeking.

"They were promised something they didn't receive," Ouellette said. "And in basic contract law, that's a breach and it comes with with with compensations and consequences."

Mombourquette's order says the board will hold a hearing "forthwith" on CUPE's complaint about the delayed payment.

No date has been set.

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