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Members of CUPE hold a news conference in Fredericton on May 9, 2024, to discuss recent cuts at provincial parks and tourist attractions. Image: Zoom video capture

UPDATED: Union worried about cuts at provincial parks, attractions

By Brad Perry May 10, 2024 | 6:53 AM

Unionized workers at provincial parks and tourist attractions are sounding the alarm about recent cuts by the New Brunswick government.

CUPE Local 1190 said the tourism department has cut the number of hours and weeks that parks and attractions will be open this summer.

President Jonathan Guimond said he is concerned about the impact on both employees and visitors.

“This short-sighted decision is going to negatively impact our province’s tourism sector, but it’s also going to have a dire effect on the livelihood of hundreds of the people who bring our parks and attractions to life,” President Jonathan Guimond said during a news conference on Thursday.

“It is the welcoming gestures and hospitality, along with the landscape maintained by the CUPE 1190 members that make these parks such an enjoyable experience.”

The union represents about 550 workers in the Department of Tourism, Heritage, and Culture – most of whom are casual.

Mike Bravener, who works at Kings Landing near Fredericton, said employees are only scheduled to receive 31.5 hours per week this year, down from 40 hours a week before the pandemic.

“Our talented staff are now tired. They’re finding it difficult to make the park come alive and real for those who want to experience a living 19th-century museum,” said Bravener.

“With a reduction of hours, this is causing a lot of anxiety among many of those who depend on getting enough hours to qualify for EI in the off-season.”

News of the cuts come after it was revealed the tourism minister and her deputy recently expensed more than $22,000 for a trip to Europe.

CUPE said that money could have been better spent on parks and tourist attractions here in New Brunswick.

The union is calling on the tourism minister to commit to keeping parks open longer this summer.

Meanwhile, the minister said most provincial parks and attractions will see longer hours this year.

Speaking with reporters, Tammy Scott-Wallace said just two locations — Kings Landing and the Village Historique Acadien — will see a reduction in hours.

“But that is not the standard across the province. We’re more successful than ever at our parks, so therefore, our hours are not being reduced,” said Scott-Wallace.

In the case of Kings Landing, the minister said the “slight reduction in hours” is due to the tourist attraction returning to seven days a week.

Scott-Wallace also responded to the union’s criticism of her recent trip to Europe with her deputy minister.

“It’s unfortunate to me that people who work in our parks and attractions would feel that, any time the minister goes across the province or outside of the province or outside of the country to promote tourism and to bring new visitors to the province, they don’t see a value to that,” she said.