Unions launch fight against NB pension reform

New Brunswick unions challenge a law they say violates bargaining rights, seeking its repeal

Unions launch fight against NB pension reform

In New Brunswick, three public-sector unions have initiated a legal battle against the Higgs government's pension reform, asserting it infringes on their collective bargaining rights, as reported by CBC News.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) locals 2745 and 1253, along with the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions, have taken their grievances to the Court of King's Bench on January 30.  

They seek a ruling that the Pension Plan Sustainability and Transfer Act, which mandates their participation in a shared-risk pension system, is unconstitutional.   

The unions contend that the Act and its regulations significantly disrupt their charter-protected right to negotiate freely.  

According to their statement of claim, the province's unilateral actions have violated the terms of their existing collective agreements, which assured the continuation of their pension plans for the duration of these agreements. 

 The controversy peaked during a Dec. 12 legislative session, where the Progressive Conservative majority passed the disputed law amid vocal protests from union members in the public gallery, challenging the decorum of the proceedings. 

 The background of the conflict traces back to 2014 when Blaine Higgs, then the finance minister and now the premier, introduced the shared-risk pension model.  

He managed to incorporate several public-sector groups into this system, but resistance persisted among certain CUPE locals, especially during the 2021 strike negotiations.  

A temporary resolution was reached through a side agreement on pensions, yet the premier accused the unions of stalling the process last November, leading to the enactment of the contentious legislation.   

The unions now seek an injunction to halt the pension plan transition and a judicial declaration of the Act's unconstitutionality. The injunction hearing is scheduled for March 12-13, while the premier's office has yet to comment on the matter.