Wages are a central issue in the contract dispute between the Higgs government and 10 locals of the Canadian Union of Public Employees whose members went on strike Friday.
And depending on who you talk to, their wages are either very low, or very high.
Some of the workers represented are “the lowest-paid of the lowest-paid in Canada,” according to Steve Drost, CUPE New Brunswick president.
Some are working two jobs to make ends meet, he said, and have only $20 left for two weeks of groceries after paying their bills.
Two per cent raises a year would only amount to an additional $2.50/hour over the span of the contract for some, Drost said.
CUPE is looking for pay increases of three per cent a year over four years.
On the other hand, said Premier Blaine Higgs, some of the workers on strike are making 30 to 40 per cent more than their counterparts in the private sector.
Higgs said his government’s offer of a total increase of 8.5 per cent over five years is reasonable and was recently accepted by three other bargaining units. Those who settled include medical specialists, professional support workers in schools and Crown prosecutors.
Combined with benefits, vacation and sick days, he said, it’s “very fair.”
Here’s a closer look at a few of the highest and lowest-paying jobs at issue — and how they stack up to what’s paid across the country.
Laundry workers in Local 1251 (not hospitals) — $16.99 to $18.29/hour
Across Canada, in the private and public sectors, average wages for this job class are $12.50 to $21.00 an hour, according to the federal government’s Job Bank.
A current posting for a government laundry job in British Columbia has wages of $19.68 to $21.35/hour.
A posting for a position at a private resort in P.E.I. is offering $13.00 an hour for 30 to 40 hours a week.
Labourers from Local 1190 — $17.54 an hour
Average wages for construction labourers across Canada in the public and private sectors are $15 to $34/hour, according to the Job Bank.
In Nova Scotia, government labourer wages as of March 31 were $20.68 to $21.90 an hour. Their government work week is 37.5 hours, compared to New Brunswick’s 36.25 hours.
Current postings for jobs in the private sector in New Brunswick are offering $12 to $20 an hour.
Custodians in Local 1251 (those working in jails and other places, but not schools or hospitals) — $17.96 to 19.52 an hour.
Average wages for this job class, public and private, across Canada are $13 to $27 an hour.
In Nova Scotia, janitors get $1,367.46 to $1,395.03 biweekly, or $18.23 to 18.60 an hour.
Clinical psychologists — $31 to $40 an hour.
The Job Bank lists no rates lower than that in other provinces.
The national average is $20 to $60 an hour.
Recent postings for government positions in Nova Scotia and P.E.I. advertised rates of $46.65 to $59.71 an hour.
Social workers — $24-$41 an hour.
The national average range is $21 to 45 an hour.
Nova Scotia social workers are paid $1,805.02 to $3,288.59 biweekly, or $24.07 to $43.85 an hour.
Job postings in Saskatchewan are advertising $31.86 to $44.65 an hour.
A health authority in Newfoundland and Labrador is offering $35.40 to $39.61 an hour
WorkSafeNB adjudicators and investigators — $29.94 to $35.70
Adjudicators for workers’ compensation in Nova Scotia get $2,385.81 biweekly, or $31.81 an hour.
At WorkplaceNL In Newfoundland and Labrador, investigators are paid $56,564 to 62,405 a year. Their work week is 35 hours long.
Intake adjudicators are paid $63,767 to $70,351 a year. Extended services adjudicators are paid $52,571 to $58,000.