Legislation tightening labor laws for nursing home workers introduced in New Brunswick, Canada

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Nursing home workers and union officials in New Brunswick, Canada, are scrambling to respond to legislation introduced Tuesday that would declare private nursing home employees "essential," severely limiting their ability to strike.

Canadian ministers say the legislation is imperative to protect the well-being of the territory's seniors in the event of a nursing home strike, according to the Canadian Press. Spokesmen for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), however, say the legislation is heavy-handed and call it an attack on free collective bargaining. Under the proposed law, only a handful of nursing home workers would be allowed to walk off the job in the event of a strike, leaving much of the caregiving force intact.

The bill was introduced as a preemptive measure to quell a potential strike by the CUPE, according to Canadian ministers. The CUPE has been in a dispute with the New Brunswick Nursing Home Association over the last-minute addition of a two-year nursing home worker pay freeze to a recently negotiated four-year labor contract, though CUPE spokesmen say there has been no talk of a strike, the Canadian Press reported.