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New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs and union leaders representing 22,000 striking public servants met Thursday for almost eight hours, but there was no sign that any progress was made.

CUPE New Brunswick President Steve Drost did not have much to say as he hurried past reporters in the lobby of the government’s main office building in Fredericton until almost 9 p.m.

“We go back and report to the centralized bargaining team, which has always been part of the process, and we’ll take it from there,” Drost said.

When asked if any progress had been made, he would only reply “We will see.”

A short time later a member of the government’s communication staff emerged to say the two sides had agreed to a media blackout and the premier would not be making any comment.

Members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees went on strike last week to back demands for higher wages after mediated contract talks broke off abruptly.

The union says its members haven’t had a decent wage increase in years and are seeking 12 per cent over four years. The government’s last offer was eight-and-a-half per cent over five years along with pension changes for two locals.

Higgs has said the government could consider back-to-work legislation, including a wage mandate if the labour dispute is not resolved through negotiation. He has said the province can’t afford the union’s demands.

The strike involves school bus drivers, educational support staff, and workers in health, transportation, corrections and the community college system.

The labour dispute has affected schools and hospitals and forced the cancellation of some COVID-19 screening and vaccination clinics.

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