Sackville rally and walk to support front-line workers

About three dozen people, many waving yellow solidarity fists, gathered at Sackville Memorial Hospital Saturday before walking down Main Street to the Farmers Market.

They were taking part in one of several rallies and walks in New Brunswick to support more than 22,000 public-sector workers who warn they’re ready to go on strike next month to back their call for substantial wage increases.

Many of the workers, who are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, have been without contracts for five years and are among the lowest paid public-sector workers in Canada.

They work in a wide variety of fields including in the prison and court systems as well as in transportation, tourism and education.

“I think the biggest thing is we’ve just got to stick together,” said Shelley Ward, a member of CUPE Local 2745.

She works as an educational assistant during the school year, but collects EI in the summer.

She says educational assistants have faced rounds of government cutbacks and there are too few supports to help them do their jobs effectively.

“We just need to stick together so that they know that we’re important and we’re not asking for a whole lot,” Ward said as people gathered in the hospital parking lot.

“We just have to show that this is important, and the hospital’s important, and that our jobs are what keeps everything going.”

Ward was referring to nearly 10,000 front-line, health-care workers in a wide range of fields including paramedics, licenced practical nurses, patient-care attendants, as well as members of hospital caretaking, maintenance and clerical staffs.

Their union, CUPE Local 1252, warned in a news release last spring that there are chronic shortages among hospital support staff including an estimated shortage of 200 licenced practical nurses as well as 100 vacant paramedic positions.

Meantime, the union that represents New Brunswick’s registered nurses estimated last month that there are at least 854 vacant nursing positions in hospitals and long-term care homes.

ER closed all weekend

John Higham after his speech today at hospital rally

“This is a mess, is the easiest way I could describe it,” former Mayor John Higham said during today’s rally outside the hospital.

“COVID made us understand how important health services were to us,” he added.

Higham, who has been part of a committee seeking to protect local hospital services, stressed the crucial need for enough staff to run the hospital and operate its emergency room.

“Today is a perfect example. [ER] closed last night, last minute, all weekend long. None of us knew anything about it. We didn’t get any notice of it,” he said.

“We understand there’s staffing issues,” he added. “That has to be overcome, but it should never have gotten this far.”

‘Fair contracts’

MLA Megan Mitton told today’s rally that successive provincial governments have failed to deal with shortages in nursing and among other health-care staff.

Megan Mitton with her new baby at today’s rally

“I can remember meeting with the nurses’ union in 2014 when I first entered formal politics and they told me that they’ve been warning governments for a long time that this is coming,” she said.

Mitton suggested providing more money to train nurses at New Brunswick universities and treating workers with more respect.

“We can make sure that fair contracts are signed and we’re not forcing nurses and health-care workers to take a zero when they’ve just put their lives on the line in a pandemic,” she said.

Mitton was referring to Premier Higgs’s plan to impose a zero percent raise in one year of a four-year contract with public sector unions and one percent raises in each of the other three years.

She said the Sackville hospital provides essential services to her whole riding.

“We need to fight back and make sure that we have service 24/7.”

Tearful thanks

Brandon Stone. (Photo by Lisa Snider)

Brandon Stone told the rally he started at Sackville Memorial in February where he works to ensure the safety and sterility of medical devices used in the hospital and its operating room.

He recalled working at the Moncton Hospital when the pandemic broke out.

“It was quite an ordeal when we first started this COVID,” he said. “It was emotionally draining, mentally draining.”

Stone teared up as he shared his experience.

“Having support from everybody, makes a world of wonder,” he said, his voice shaking with emotion.

“This COVID has hit everybody in every way and it’s just great to have the support we need so that we can keep going and keep trying.

“Thank you to everybody for giving us this support.”

This entry was posted in COVID-19, Health care, New Brunswick politics and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Sackville rally and walk to support front-line workers

  1. Kathy Best says:

    Were was our Mayor? Two councillors showed up..that’s…pathetic!! Guess they don’t really care what happens to our Hospital and are not thankful for what the hospital staff have done for us during these trying times.

  2. CUPE Local 1252, public-sector workers, Canadian Union of Public Employees well at least they get more rights than most.

    To me frontline workers e.g. the supply chain workers, truck drivers, janitors people that work at grocery stores, and small business owners. Many of them are also first-generation immigrates and people of faith.

    Or as Progressives like to call them “the college uneducated” whom they make it an art form of mocking them. There seems to be a lot of very mean-spirited people using terms like “Progressive” in bad faith these days.

    Perhaps it is “the college uneducated” workers that work in the private sectors that are the ones that we have undervalued for way too long?

    These so-called Progressives might want to think about this quote “ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” JFK

    I would like to give a personal shout-out to the so-called “college uneducated” for their great contribution to our society. They are indeed true Canadian heroes that we can’t live without.

    Sincerely, Demian Hammock,

    Diploma of Advanced Studies, Human Resources Management, NBCC

    • S says:

      I do agree with Damien that there are many front line workers who aren’t in the healthcare field that aren’t recognized for their struggles as well. We have to encourage and thank them for their hard work and dedication to keep us safe to supply the essential needs for us to protect our family as well as their own.

  3. Les Hicks says:

    Thanks Bruce for your report on yesterday’s march to support our health care workers. It was disappointing to see such a low turnout for the event but I imagine many people are away on vacation or at their cottages, which was likely Higgs’ reasoning for waiting till the start of the summer season to spring his new attempt at gradually shutting our hospital down by more and more closures (often unannounced like this week-end’s closure) of our hospital’s emergency department.

    As Kathy mentioned in her comment, it was also disappointing to see the lack of support from our town council for this event. The only current town councillor that I saw at the event yesterday was Bruce Phinney (thanks for being there Bruce). It was good to see our MLA Megan Mitton there (with her new addition to her family), but I find it discouraging that none of our local municipal or provincial politicians actually talk about the elephant in the room – namely the underlying reason why our health care system is in such bad shape.

    The ad hoc committee is supposedly working with the Health Minister on coming up with novel means of recruiting new nurses, but as long as our nurses remain the lowest paid in Canada why would they stay or come to this province when they are so under-compensated for the important (and in these days dangerous) work that they perform on a daily basis. Our provincial and federal politicians are constantly telling us that there is not enough money to maintain a publicly funded, effective and reliable health care system. Why is it that there is not enough money available? The main reason is our unfair tax system. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, our political representatives (and the general public as well) should be demanding major reforms to the provincial and federal tax laws which currently allow the ultra wealthy and large corporations to legally hide billions of taxable dollars through the use of loopholes in the tax laws and through offshore tax havens.

    How do we as individuals gain the power to force these changes? Join and support organizations like Canadians for Tax Fairness ( https://www.taxfairness.ca ) that are working towards this goal. How do we ensure that we elect political representatives who will fight for these changes? Join and support organizations like FairVoteCanada ( https://www.fairvote.ca ) which is working towards changing our provincial and federal electoral systems from ‘first past the post’ to some form of ‘proportional representation’, which will end the current situation we find ourselves in where a political party (like the liberals in the 2015 federal election) can form a majority government with less than 40% of the popular vote.

    So to summarize, our health care system is broken because our tax laws are broken, and our tax laws are broken because our outdated, first past the post, electoral system is broken.

  4. Terri Black says:

    This was about CUPE’s Bargaining Forward Mandate. Not sure why 2745 interviewee didn’t know that this walk is about the 22,000 public servants wanting a fairwage🤔
    Seems it got turned into a Save Our Hospital Walk😢

    • Les Hicks says:

      Hi Terri,

      After reading your comment, I went back and re-read Bruce’s article. He began by stating, in reference to the attendees at the rally “They were taking part in one of several rallies and walks in New Brunswick to support more than 22,000 public-sector workers who warn they’re ready to go on strike next month to back their call for substantial wage increases.” In reference to his interview with Shelley Ward, a member of CUPE local 2745, she was quoted as saying “I think the biggest thing is we’ve just got to stick together.” She also said that educational assistants have faced rounds of government cutbacks and there are too few supports to help them do their jobs effectively. She herself works as an educational assistant. She was next quoted saying “We just need to stick together so that they know that we’re important and we’re not asking for a whole lot.” Her next quote was “We just need to stick together so that they know that this is important, and the hospital’s important, and that our jobs are what keeps everything going.” Referring to that quote, Bruce wrote “Ward was referring to nearly 10,000 front-line, health-care workers in a wide range of fields including paramedics, licenced practical nurses, patient-care attendants, as well as members of hospital caretaking, maintenance and clerical staffs.”

      From my reading of the article, Ms. Ward talked about the need for all of the CUPE members in various fields to stick together, including those who work in her field, as well as the thousands who work in the health care field, and she made one mention of the importance of our particular hospital, which employs CUPE members. This leaves me to wonder if you actually read the complete article.

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