New Brunswick nursing home workers face continued uncertainty amid flurry of court activity

A flurry of court activity on Monday has left New Brunswickers in the same position they were in last week, with continued uncertainty about the state of nursing home workers in the province.

Late on Monday, Justice Raymond French with the Court of Appeal issued a stay on a decision made by Justice Paulette Garnett only hours earlier. French’s ruling ensures that there will be no strike action from the more than 4,100 nursing home workers in the province until at least Thursday.

Garnett had declined a request from the province and the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes to extend the stay of a March 9 ruling that barred nursing home workers — represented by the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) — from taking strike action.

Garnett also ordered the province and the nursing homes to each pay the CUPE $2,500 in costs.

“[It’s a] big victory, not only for nursing home workers but also for all workers across the province,” said Sharon Teare, president for the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions.

But Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard quickly released a statement saying that the government had “no choice but to appeal this decision with the Court of Appeal.”

“This is not a political issue; it is an issue of resident safety,” Shephard wrote in a statement.

“While I support the collective bargaining process and workers’ ability to strike, the health and safety of nursing home residents continues to be my primary concern.”

The New Brunswick government has argued that nursing home workers should be deemed an essential service following a 2018 labour board decision that suggests otherwise.

The government has asked that the stay is extended until a judicial review can be conducted.

French has effectively granted that request and overruled Garnett’s decision until a motion to appeal is heard in court on Thursday.

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