The largest public sector union in Newfoundland and Labrador has launched a new advertising campaign that depicts the provincial government as preaching prosperity to voters but austerity to its workers.
The new NAPE ad points out that the government has underscored the province's booming economy, while at the same time warning of cuts to come.
NAPE has been at the bargaining table for months with the government, which has consistently warned of spending cuts and possibly tax increases in the spring budget.
"A have province should mean a have people," says the commercial, which shows a variety of workers holding up signs with such words as "cuts" and "layoffs."
NAPE president Carol Furlong said Premier Kathy Dunderdale cannot have it both ways.
"You can't go to one group when you talk to the business groups and say, 'it's a great time of economic prosperity, we're making very sound investments and things are looking good for the future,' and then come back to us and say, 'We have no money, the cupboard is bare,' " Furlong told CBC News.
"We have two messages coming out of government."
Four-year contracts have expired
The government signed contracts with NAPE and other unions in 2008 and 2009 that followed a template giving raises worth about 21 per cent over four years.
Dunderdale has said that the government will be hard pressed to approve a package that includes anything close to those wage increases.
A few weeks ago, Dunderdale told CBC News she sees the public service as "pretty heavily populated."
Last week, Dunderdale moved Jerome Kennedy — often described as one of the most aggressive ministers in the cabinet — into the finance portfolio, as budget preparations move into the final phase and bargaining rounds become more intense.
Furlong said her members say they are confused by what the union calls mixed messages about Muskrat Falls, and the government's claim it has made a sound investment.
"Make up your mind," she said. "Did you make a sound investment or not? If you made a sound investment, then your future should be secure."
Furlong said NAPE is not trying to win over the public with the ads, but instead wants the public to realize what is happening.