The Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE) says it officially served notice today to begin bargaining with the provincial government.

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NAPE president Carol Furlong.

Most NAPE public sector collective agreements are set to expire on March 31.

"We have expended considerable energy to ensure our union is in the best shape in its history in preparation for the upcoming round of collective bargaining," NAPE president Carol Furlong said in a press release. "We are on solid financial ground and we have great support from our members."

NAPE will be bargaining for more than 20,000 public service employees. Those include employees in areas ranging from health care to education to corrections to group homes to air services.

Furlong said NAPE anticipates "a difficult round of bargaining." But the union believes it can reach a deal to retain skilled workers in the public service.

"The reality is that Newfoundland and Labrador is experiencing an unprecedented level of economic prosperity and we expect our members to share in that prosperity," she noted.

Earlier this week, Premier Kathy Dunderdale gave a speech to the St. John's Board of Trade, warning that times of fiscal restraint are ahead.

In December, Dunderdale told CBC News that workers should temper their expectations in the coming round of bargaining. "I think they have to expect a more modest increase," the premier said at the time.