Saying "Tar politics is serious business in New Brunswick," CUPE Local 1190 President Andy Hardy has accused the Gallant government of playing politics with peoples' livelihoods, fulfilling campaign trail promises to boost the private sector by cutting jobs within the public service.

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Andy Hardy, president of CUPE Local 1190, says privatization 'isn't going to save money.' (CBC)

At news conference on Thursday, Hardy said 277 and ½ positions, including 187 casual jobs, are being cut, everywhere from the shop that makes highway signs to the striper crews who paint lines on the highways.  

"We know this isn't going to save money," he said. "This is about — I heard a couple of words. Realignment of the department, and transformation." Hardy said the union was told at a January meeting with Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Roger Melanson and a couple of deputy ministers that it costs "two times more" to contract out the work.

Hardy said, for example, mechanics who work on the transportation fleet cost $40-$42 per hour, with parts at cost, compared to $95-$120 per hour in the private sector, with parts at retail prices. And that's not the only example.

The Fredericton chip seal crew that he says is being abolished this summer does the work cheaper than the private sector.

"There's chip seal companies that's doing it in Saint John and we're about $875 per kilometre cheaper," said Hardy.

'We feel the public has a right to know where their money is being spent.' - Andy Hardy, CUPE Local 1190

CUPE plans to set up information pickets around the province on Mar. 12 in a 'day of action.'

"We feel the public has a right to know where their money is being spent," Hardy said. The union also said it plans to send a request to the auditor general, asking for an investigation into the awarding of public contracts in the field of transport and construction in New Brunswick.

The government's budget speech is clear about its intention to conduct "a significant reorganization" of the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, with "reductions in senior and middle-management and a renewed focus on the core services of the department: winter maintenance, summer maintenance and contract management. Non-core functions will shift to the private sector impacting nearly 200 casual workers during construction."

The government said those affected by the changes will receive support from "adjustment services, which may include job placements, training, EI enhancements."