Premier Higgs says N.B. ‘likely in for a long haul’ on public sector strike
FREDERICTON — New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs is showing no signs of bending on his government’s latest contract offer to striking public sector workers.
The strike by thousands of public servants, including school bus drivers, educational support staff and workers in transportation, corrections and the community college system, entered Day 11 on Monday.
The two sides are close on the issue of wages, with the government offering 10 per cent over five years and a 25-cent-per-hour annual increase, but the province is also proposing contentious pension changes for two locals.
The premier says the two locals’ pension plans are underfunded and unsustainable, adding that if the union won’t budge on the pension issue, then “we’re likely in for a long haul here.”
The union earlier rejected the proposed pension changes, and CUPE New Brunswick representatives were not immediately available for comment Monday.
On Friday, the government issued an emergency order forcing striking workers in the health-care sector to return to work, threatening fines up to $20,400 per day for employees who refuse to comply.
The government has also locked out members of two locals that represent school staff, and schools across the province have moved to remote learning as a result.
Higgs says the union must agree to let the two locals in question enter a process to determine a new model for their pensions. Taxpayers, he said, can’t continue to pay into a model “that has proven to have outlived its ? liabilities.”
“People now live longer and are retired longer than the pension formula was ever designed for. We have people retired for longer than they have worked in many cases.”
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