A record-breaking strike fund of more than $17 million should not be seen as a sign that NAPE members are itching to walk out, the union's president says.
NAPE told its members it has more than $25 million in cash and assets, and that $17.4 million was in the bank for what the union calls a defence fund.
President Carol Furlong said the sum — the largest the union has ever accumulated — should not be mistaken as proof that a strike is inevitable.
"We believe that a strong defence fund is a deterrent to a strike, in fact, and is an incentive for the employers to achieve successful negotiations," Furlong told CBC News.
"To us, job action in the form of a strike is a really serious action and it's something we will resort to if we can't find a more plausible solution. We are secure in the fact that we do have money."
NAPE has more than 20,000 members, with most working for provincial government departments and agencies, including health care boards.
NAPE has been at the bargaining table since last spring, and has said that serious issues involving pay have not yet been discussed. Premier Kathy Dunderdale and Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy have both warned that the forthcoming budget will include spending cuts and layoffs.
The union and the Canadian Union of Public Employees waged a one-month strike against the government in 2004, which ended when the government of Danny Williams used the legislature to force union members back to work.
Wayne Lucas, president of CUPE's branch in Newfoundland and Labrador, said it's too early to be talking about strikes, although his union will also be ramping up its message against the government. An advertising campaign is set to roll out this weekend.
Lucas also said the government should take his 6,000 members seriously.
"We have ways and means from a provincial point of view, but then of course we're part of a national union. Our national union has $60 million in the bank," he said.
"I would prefer to have that money sit there forever ... I don't want to have to access that money, but I can assure you that if we've got to access money, we've got the money at our fingertips."