NAPE leader stops short — barely — of calling for boycott of Board of Trade, Employers' Council businesses

The president of Newfoundland and Labrador's largest public-sector union stopped short Monday — but just barely — of calling for a boycott of St. John's Board of Trade businesses

'If you don't want our public sector dollars … let us know, and we will gladly oblige you,' says Jerry Earle

NAPE president Jerry Earle says he's prepared not to support businesses that are critical of a no-layoff clause in the union's tentative contract. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

The president of Newfoundland and Labrador's largest public-sector union stopped short Monday — but just barely — of calling for a boycott of St. John's Board of Trade businesses

Jerry Earle, speaking to CBC's On the Go, acknowledged he'd posted on Facebook that he's planning not to support businesses represented by the St. John's Board of Trade and the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council as a war of rhetoric continues over a no-layoff clause in the government's contract offer continues.

It was a personal post, he said, but added he's heard from union members who are also upset with the business groups' criticism of the no-layoff clause.

'We will gladly oblige you'

"NAPE is prepared to support our local businesses, but if there are businesses there that want to paint a target on our workers' back … let us know, and we will let our members know," he said.

"Because if you don't want our public sector dollars, if you don't want some of the money that NAPE spends in Newfoundland and Labrador, let us know, and we will gladly oblige you and we will not honour your businesses."

Earle said most of the businesses in the St. John's Board of Trade "are not on the same page" as the leadership.

St. John's Board of Trade chairperson Dorothy Keating says it's not an issue of business versus unions, but one of government accountability. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

"If a business wants to step forward and say, 'We support the position of our president, and we agree with exactly what she's saying,' then our members will decide whether they patronize those businesses or not."

Board of Trade chair Dorothy Keating said Monday it's not a matter of business groups versus the public sector, but one of government accountability.

"Our issue with this, our concern is that government has to maintain the ability to control our finances," she said.

"There are so many things that we cannot control as a province. We cannot control the price of oil. We cannot control interest rates, which increased last week. There are so many things that we cannot control that we have to tell the government that they have to be able to control expenditures. And to not be able to do that is an issue when we are at such a financial crisis."

Wants to be sure no-layoff clause will end

To that end, she also continued to claim — despite assurances by Finance Minister Tom Osborne to the contrary — that the no-layoff clause will carry forward into future contracts unless it's specifically negotiated out, because of a lack of a sunset clause.

"We've spoken to experts across the country, experts in the province, and we believe the conversation last week has affirmed that there is continuity of this into the next agreement. So we disagree that we have the certainty that we need that layoffs are only on the table until March 31st, 2020."