Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal Leader Dwight Ball says a minor cabinet shuffle made by Premier Kathy Dunderdale on Wednesday is a warning of things to come.
"Public sector unions should prepare themselves for some downsizing and some cuts," said Ball. "And all of us as residents should prepare ourselves for some service cuts or program cuts."
Jerome Kennedy and Tom Marshall swapped portfolios in Wednesday's mini-shuffle, with Kennedy moving back to Finance and Marshall into Natural Resources.
Kennedy, who has a reputation for being combative, was the finance minister in 2008 and 2009, when the government reached four-year contracts with public sector unions.
"Kennedy will be the tough negotiator that (Dunderdale) wants to carry these files leading into the 2013-14 budget," Ball said.
Status quo for CUPE
Wayne Lucas, the provincial president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), said the shakeup changes nothing when it comes to negotiations with the provincial government.
"To be quite honest with you, we have to deal with whoever is there," said Lucas. "CUPE has dealt with every finance minister now since confederation, and I don't think this one is going to be any different."
Lucas said the premier has been giving out mixed signals that are confusing for his members. He said the government has been telling unions not to expect big raises in this round of negotiations. Yet at the same time, he said Dunderdale has been talking about the province's strong economy.
"One minute the minister, or the premier, is talking about a red hot, a white hot, a blue hot economy," said Lucas.
"And then when she talks about public sector bargaining, she's talking about, you know, well perhaps there might be something different for the public sector."
The Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE), which represents more than half the people whose contracts are up for negotiation, declined comment on Wednesday's shuffle.