Welcome To
Acadia Broadcasting NewsThe Latest and Greatest ContentYour Trusted Local Source


Stephen Drost is the president of CUPE New Brunswick. Image: Zoom video capture

Job action possible as CUPE fights pension legislation

By Brad Perry Dec 4, 2023 | 12:24 PM

CUPE New Brunswick is not ruling out job action to try and stop proposed pension plan legislation.

The province wants to force five pension plans in the education and nursing home sectors into a shared-risk model.

Sandy Harding, CUPE’s regional director for the Maritimes, said every option is on the table for their members.

“We’re not the decision-makers here, our members are the decision-makers. They’re speaking loud and clear to us right now that they are not happy,” Harding said during a news conference on Monday.

CUPE said the Higgs government is trampling on the rights of workers by introducing this legislation.

Harding said the union will take every legal route necessary if the bill, which is currently being debated in the legislature, does pass.

Stephen Drost, the president of CUPE New Brunswick, declined to say what sort of actions the union might take to stop that from happening.

“We are working with other unions, we are working with our own membership, with our own leaders,” said Drost.

Harding said CUPE presidents and executives from around the province are scheduled to meet in Fredericton on Tuesday. CUPE also plans to meet with representatives from other labour unions.

The legislation in question

Premier Blaine Higgs said Wednesday that the legislation is meant to address the sustainability of the plans.

Figures provided by the province show the five plans have a combined deficit of around $285 million.

Hugh Wright, a lawyer with Halifax-based Miller Thomson, said that figure is projected to increase.

Wright said it would cost around $365 million to move the five pension plans in order to fund them at the same level as the shared-risk plans.

The current plans are funded at levels ranging from 65 per cent to 107.4 per cent. Under the shared-risk model, Wright said current funding levels range from 118 to 120 per cent.

Under the proposed legislation, the affected unions would be able to choose from one of three shared-risk plans.

Who is impacted by the changes?

The legislation would impact members of CUPE Local 1253, which represents 2,800 school district bus drivers, custodians and trade workers, along with CUPE Local 2745, representing 4,400 educational support staff.

Also impacted are nursing home workers who fall under three pension plans: general and services; nursing and paramedical; and management.

CUPE claims that the legislation amounts to the premier breaking signed collective agreements with its members.

Theresa McAllister, president of CUPE Local 2745, said pension plan agreements were the main reason why a weeks-long strike in 2021 came to an end.

McAllister said under the memorandum of agreement (MOA), both sides would work together to come up with a pension plan that was feasible for everyone.

“On Thursday, a letter was delivered to us with an ultimatum: pick one of three shared-risk plans, and if not, [the premier] would introduce legislation to impose one,” said McAllister.

As part of the MOA, which McAllister said was pushed for by Higgs, the two sides agreed to mediation if an impasse was reached.

The mediation would involve an actuary chosen by the union, one selected by the province, and a third would be assigned, she said.

“We sent a notice in September to say we have reached the impasse, that we wanted to move to the three-member actuary panel, and this is what their response was,” said McAllister.