N.B. appeals court reserves decision on whether nursing home workers can strike

N.B. appeals court reserves decision on whether nursing home workers can strike
Three New Brunswick Court of Appeal judges have reserved their decision in a legal dispute between the province and its more 4,000 nursing home workers concerning the unions right to a strike.

On Wednesday, lawyers for the province and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) argued whether a lower court justice had erred in a decision that wouldve allowed the workers to walk off the job.

Christian Michaud, the provinces lawyer, argued the lower court had made mistakes in their decision as the justices analysis seemed to have been done in the context of a labour dispute, while Canadian Union of Public Employees lawyer Joel Michaud argued the lower courts exercised judicial discretion and properly took public interest into account when deciding to allow a strike.

In the end, the three justices reserved their decision for a later date and maintained a stay in the case, which temporarily prevents a strike action. There is no timetable for the ruling.

Were stalled again, waiting and waiting, adding to the months we already have waited, Sharon Teare, president of the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions, told reporters outside the courthouse in Fredericton.

Christian Michaud said the province looks forward to the results of this and determining what other steps are required once we have that decision.

The union is ultimately fighting a provincial regulation that considers nursing home workers as an essential service, thus preventing them from taking a strike action. The New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes says the law is required to ensure nursing home residents receive the level of care they require to maintain a quality of life.

Wednesdays proceedings are just the latest in a multi-year saga involving the nurses right to strike that began in 2013 when the provincial labour board decided 90 per cent of nursing home employees were essential to the lives of residents in those facilities.

The union then fought the decision, stating the high number of essential employees breached their freedom of association rights, and eventually won in December 2018.

In early March, the labour board decided all nursing home employees had the right to strike, but the government then asked for a judicial review in the December 2018 decision and a stay in the matter, which temporarily halted the unions strike plans.

Just over a week later, Court of Queen s Bench Justice Paulette Garnett lifted the temporary stay in the case, but it was quickly reinstated as the province appealed the decision, which led to Wednesdays hearing.

It has been a drawn-out process, theres no question about it, said Joel Michaud. There have been many, many hearings. More hearings than we should have had.
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