JERRY EARLE WANTS BUSINESS TO JUST BUTT OUT. The president of the 30,000-member Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE) told them that in no uncertain terms in a public news conference January 19.
Earle called the strident efforts of the St. John’s Board of Trade to influence his members in the middle of a vote on a new contract: “False. Inflammatory. And nothing short of fear mongering.”
Earle rejected any suggestion the contract would be bad for the province. “This is our province too,” he said. “We live here too. We would never do anything to jeopardize our life here together.”
Earle said the business concern over a “no layoff” clause in the proposed contact is completely misplaced. Earle said the no-layoff clause is just one element of an agreement that strikes a balance between protecting workers and the province’s bottom line.
No free lunch
The clause does not come without a cost to NAPE members. They will have to accept a four-year wage freeze to get the assurance of no massive, across-the-board job cuts.
“All this clause means is that the government cannot simply slash and burn the frontline workers of this province which has been the case far too many times in the past,” said Earle.
Earle explained that government would still be free to cut jobs, but only if there’s a proven lack of work, and through attrition. What government cannot do is take a broad axe to the public service as part of an effort to meet self-imposed budget targets.
Local businesses will benefit
Another clause in the proposed contract commits certain members to give up all future severance benefits in return for a one-time-only lump-sum payout.
Earle strongly objected to the idea that this money will be a net loss to the province. He was quick to point out that his members would be spending their money and doing it in Newfoundland and Labrador—not something to which he expected local businesses would object.
“I’m assuming the employers’ groups won’t be telling their members to turn away public sector workers from spending money in these shops,” said Earle.
To drive home his point Earle sarcastically offered to help businesses who wanted to refuse to take money from public service workers: “If you’d like to go on a list, let me know,” he said.
Earle also pointed out a portion of the payments will also be recouped by government through taxation.
Voting on the deal will end on January 30. Earle said reaction from NAPE members has been generally positive.