Concessions, Concessions, Concessions:
That's What's at Stake

- Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE), April 4, 2004 -

On March 31, NAPE's negotiating teams rejected the premier's offer based on the following:

Four concessions still on table

- Pensions The premier refused to guarantee pension NFLD NAPE strikepremiums wouldn't go up and pension benefits wouldn't go down. He also won't guarantee not to roll the other provincial government pension plans in with ours. All the other plans are in even worse shape.

- Sick leave The premier wants to cut sick leave benefits in half for future employees, creating a two-tiered benefit. What benefit would he want to cut in the next round of negotiations?

- Implementation of new classification system Our existing contracts include government's commitment to implement a new classification system on April 1, 2004, something NAPE and CUPE negotiated in 2001. The unions agreed to a four-year delay. That wasn't enough for this government. They want to put a cap -- a maximum dollar amount -- on something that is intended to ensure individual public sector workers are paid appropriately for their responsibilities. Government also wants to reduce negotiated wage increases by whatever is paid out under the new classification system.

- School board hours of work This government wouldn't agree to honour the Warren and Young reports on school board workers' hours of work -- reports that settled a nine-week strike in 2001.

No compassion for laid off workers

According to the provincial budget, some 400 NAPE and CUPE members will be laid off this year, and we have reason to believe that number might not include layoffs in health care. We tried to negotiate a voluntary workforce reduction program, a much more humane approach to cutting jobs. This was one of a handful of issues left on the table on March 31.

Government trying to provoke fight between NAPE and CUPE

The provincial budget announced that eleven school boards will be reduced to five this year. It also announced that the number of health care corporations will be slashed. Both NAPE and CUPE asked for recognition language in health care and school boards -- NAPE members would continue to be NAPE members, and CUPE members would continue to be CUPE members. Government would not agree, preferring to turn the unions' attention to fighting with each other rather than fighting for the workers we represent.

Strike votes said, "no concessions"

Our strike votes made it clear our members would not accept concessions, so regardless of what the monetary offer from government had been on March 31, we would not have had a contract. We gave government a deadline of midnight, Sunday, April 4 to accept our offer -- no concessions, a two-year wage freeze, two 3% wage increases in the third year of the contract, and two 3% wage increases in the fourth year of the contract. If our members agree to a two-year wage freeze, government has to give something in return.

Let's not repeat the '90s

In the 1990s, NAPE took a conciliatory approach to then Liberal premier Clyde Wells, and our members suffered for years. You took rollbacks, wages freezes, and wholesale job losses. Now we have another arrogant premier. A premier who during the election campaign said there'd be no job losses, yet his budget made it clear 400 NAPE and CUPE members, close to 300 teachers, and hundreds of managers will lose their jobs by the end of 2005. He told us what he needed to say to get elected, then went back on his word.

And what about his claim at NAPE's 2001 Biennial Convention that he wouldn't use the "extraordinary powers of the legislature, powers no other employer enjoys." Yet he has already threatened to legislate NAPE and CUPE members back to work.

The premier has also claimed he "didn't know" the province was in such bad financial state. Yet in March of 2004, Loyola Sullivan told the House of Assembly he knew the deficit was close to $750 million. The premier spent our money to have PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) prepare a report on the province's finances. He spent the money so that Tory hack Michael Gourley would give the premier something to beat the unions with. A report on provincial finances by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, commissioned by NAPE, puts the debt at much lower figures than the PWC report. But then, so does the budget finance minister Loyola Sullivan brought down. The fact is, the province is in hard shape, but it is not in the mess the Tories would have you believe it is in. We agreed to a two-year wage freeze. Now it's time for the premier to do his share.

And what's with the premier implying that NAPE or CUPE members had anything to do with beating up his son at a bar in St. John's on budget night? But more important, where does he get off saying if a union member goes near his family or the family of one of his members, he'll keep us out 'til the cows come home. Only an egomaniac would punish 20,000 people for the actions of one person, a person who probably isn't a NAPE or CUPE member. But what kind of egomaniac would deprive everybody in this province of public services to satisfy his very personal thirst for revenge? This is a man who doesn't hesitate to abuse his power as premier.

Speaking about abusing his power, what's with his negotiating with picketers on the picket line? Don't say he doesn't know any better. He found a few vulnerable members and misled them about what government was offering. If we didn't have to negotiate a settlement with this man, we'd be charging him under the Labour Relations Act.

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