Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale has ordered cabinet ministers to find common ground on two long-running labour disputes, including a strike that started more than a year ago.
Dunderdale, who replaced Danny Williams as the province's 10th premier on Friday, said she will continue his policies, although she has indicated she wants to resolve a standoff with the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, while also taking a new look at a 13-month old strike of 14 support workers on the Burin Peninsula.
"I think we have to be talking to one another regardless of our positions," Dunderdale told reporters Monday.
"Nothing gets resolved if people are polarized in any kind of discussion or debate."
Representatives of the Treasury Board and the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees met Monday about the Burin Peninsula strike.
The workers are employed by the Burin-Marystown Community Training Employment Board, and supervise developmentally delayed adults who are enrolled in a job-placement program.
Until now, government has refused to intervene in the dispute because it is not the direct employer. NAPE president Carol Furlong has repeatedly pleaded for the government to step in, noting last week that a small part of a projected $12.3-million surplus could resolve the strike.
Leadership of the NLMA met Saturday with Finance Minister Tom Marshall and Health Minister Jerome Kennedy. President Dr. Pat O'Shea said the government not only presented a different tone, but also opened the door to the possibility of binding arbitration, which has been a long-standing bargaining goal of the association.
Dunderdale said she wants to reach a consensus with physicians as quickly as possible, but said government has been asked not to interfere while doctors are voting on the current proposal.