Women's Work:
Focus on Caring

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The Nurses vs. McKenna, 1991-1992

Cover of <cite>The Parasol</cite>, July 1992

COVER OF THE PARASOL, JULY 1992: Cover of the NBNU newsletter after the confrontation.

By the 1990s, nurses had been officially unionized since 1978 when the New Brunswick Nurses Union (NBNU) was formed. Although nurses were now considered public sector workers with the right to collective bargaining, including the right to strike, nurses continued to feel the tug-of-war between their status as professionals and as union members. As one nursing activist remembered, the nurses had to learn to wear two hats: one as a professional and the other as a union member. When the Frank McKenna government in 1991 introduced wage freeze legislation (Bill 73, known as the Expenditure Management Act), the public sector unions, including the NBNU, launched a campaign to fight the freeze on their wages. The campaign included an advertisement that labeled McKenna's program “a bitter pill to swallow”. In this section of our website you will be able to read about the campaign to get the government to honour the nurses' contract and the wage rates that were specified in that contract. Although nurses continued to struggle with the idea of wearing “two hats,” they recognized that collective bargaining was an essential tool to use in their fight for better wages and working conditions. This feature continues the story of nurses' activism that began in the 1960s and continued through the 1970s and 1980s as nurses campaigned not only for better wages and working conditions but also to ensure good patient care during times of government cutbacks.

For our earlier feature on the nurses, see How Nurses Learned to Wear Two Hats: Professionals and Unionists.

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