The New Brunswick government and the union representing thousands of striking public sector workers reached a tentative agreement Saturday they say will put an immediate end to a strike that’s lasted for more than two weeks.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees said workers will return to their jobs while members of the seven bargaining units that negotiate directly with the province vote on the proposed deal.
“Our workers are going back to work to serve the province of New Brunswick, the job they love doing, so it’s a very good day indeed,” said Steve Drost, CUPE New Brunswick’s president. “It’s a relief to them and all of us involved for sure.”
Public servants, including education sector employees, workers in transportation, corrections and the community college system, have been on strike since Oct. 29.
The province said schools, which shifted to remote learning after the government locked out workers including custodians and educational assistants, would reopen in the coming week.
“Details about the reopening of schools are being finalized and will be announced Sunday,” a government release said.
Both the province and the union agreed not to share details of the tentative agreement publicly until it was ratified, but Drost said the proposal sees wages rise “above the cost of living” - meeting what he described as CUPE’s principal demand.
He said the deal left him “humbled and grateful” after a particularly tough round of bargaining.
“It was kind of David and Goliath, in the sense that they were taking on a very strong government,” Drost said.
The government last week ordered striking health care workers back to work in a move the union planned to challenge in court Monday.
The province threatened fines up to $20,400 per day for health-care workers who refused to return to their jobs, while CUPE was threatened with a minimum fine of $100,000 for each day that a worker failed to comply with the order.
Attorney General Hugh Flemming has said the emergency order for health workers was necessary because there was a risk of medical treatment not being provided and loss of life if the strike continued.