NAPE lay­off clause will ‘cost the prov­ince,’ board says

St. John’s Board of Trade and Premier Dwight Ball at odds about ‘no lay­off’ agree­ment

The Western Star - - CLOSE TO HOME - BY DAVID MA­HER -With files from Ash­ley Fitz­patrick­her@thetele­ Twit­ter: DavidMa­h­erNL

The no-lay­off pro­vi­sion ten­ta­tively agreed to be­tween the provin­cial gov­ern­ment and the New­found­land and Labrador As­so­ci­a­tion of Pub­lic and Pri­vate Em­ploy­ees (NAPE) will cost the prov­ince “for gen­er­a­tions to come,” ac­cord­ing to St. John’s Board of Trade chair Dorothy Keat­ing.

The deal be­tween NAPE and gov­ern­ment has yet to be rat­i­fied, with union meet­ings tak­ing place over the next two weeks.

Doc­u­ments re­ceived by The Telegram show the pro­vi­sion states, “The em­ployer shall not use lay­offs to ef­fect provin­cial bud­getary ex­pen­di­ture re­duc­tions.”

A “sun­set” clause is not in the ten­ta­tive agree­ment, which means the no-lay­off clause will have to ne­go­ti­ated out of any fu­ture col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ments.

No-lay­off clauses are not un­heard of in the pub­lic sec­tor. In 2016, for ex­am­ple, the Pub­lic Ser­vice Al­liance of Canada ne­go­ti­ated such a clause into the Cana­dian Mu­seum of Na­ture col­lec­tive agree­ment.

Such a clause is a first for NAPE, how­ever.

Keat­ing says it is ir­re­spon­si­ble for the gov­ern­ment to have ten­ta­tively agreed to the mea­sure.

“The provin­cial gov­ern­ment has ne­go­ti­ated a col­lec­tive agree­ment which un­equiv­o­cally guar­an­tees that it would not lay off to save money at a time when the prov­ince is in a fi­nan­cial cri­sis,” Keat­ing stated in a news re­lease.

“The tax­pay­ers of this prov­ince are left to bear the bur­den of this agree­ment for gen­er­a­tions to come, as once a clause is in­tro­duced it is en­shrined in col­lec­tive agree­ments only to be re­moved if specif­i­cally ne­go­ti­ated out.”

Speak­ing to re­porters at a Ro­tary event on Thurs­day, Premier Dwight Ball said largescale lay­offs are not the an­swer to the prov­ince’s messy fis­cal sit­u­a­tion.

“We don’t see (lay­offs as) the so­lu­tion to the deficit prob­lem that we have in our prov­ince right now, an $800-mil­lion deficit sit­u­a­tion that will re­quire thou­sands and thou­sands and thou­sands of peo­ple that would have to be laid off to sat­isfy that com­mit­ment,” Ball said.

“We still have at­tri­tion, we still have op­por­tu­ni­ties within gov­ern­ment to make sure that we have the ap­pro­pri­ate amount, but we were never en­gaged or never re­ally had a lay­off plan, a ma­jor lay­off plan, within gov­ern­ment.” Keat­ing says re­ly­ing on at­tri­tion is not the way for gov­ern­ment to ad­dress spend­ing con­cerns.

“To hope that at­tri­tion will be suf­fi­cient to deal with our mas­sive debt and over­spend­ing is naive,” Keat­ing said.

“We can­not lock our­selves into a sit­u­a­tion where we rely solely on at­tri­tion to see us out of this fi­nan­cial cri­sis. We must re­tain the abil­ity to man­age the pub­lic sec­tor, and we should not be pro­vid­ing a no-lay­off guar­an­tee.”

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