Nfld. & Labrador

Carol Furlong says privatization would be 'fiscally and morally' irresponsible

The head of the province's largest public sector union is firing back at suggestions by Premier Paul Davis that it may be time to rely more on the private sector in the provision of public services.

NAPE president urges government to not act hastily in light of 'short-term' economic challenges

NAPE President Carol Furlong is firing back at suggestions by Premier Paul Davis that it's time to consider a greater reliance on the private sector to provide public services. (CBC)

The head of Newfoundland and Labrador's largest public sector union is firing back at Premier Paul Davis' suggestions that it may be time to rely more on the private sector in the provision of public services.

Carol Furlong, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE), said such a move would be "fiscally and morally" irresponsible.

"Turning our service delivery model into a for-profit model will see the level of service decided by corporate profit rather than the public’s need for service," she said in a statement Friday.

Davis raised the idea during a speech on Thursday in St. Johns as a way of coping with a serious economic situation brought on primarily by a plunge in oil royalties. 

"Is private business a good way to deliver long-term care services in some places of our province? That's something we should give some thought to. I think it's prudent for us to do that," Davis told reporters after speaking to a Rotary luncheon.

Furlong told CBC News on Friday that government's problems with the budget aren't because of the public sector.

"The premier has been told time and again and has acknowledged that this is a short-term problem, and what they're proposing now is a long-term solution that will really hurt the people of this province and destroy the public service," she said.

'Hammering' the public sector

Furlong added NAPE isn't going to let public sector workers lose jobs, as the province looks to privatize more services.

"This constant, constant going after public services is really starting to get on our nerves, frankly," she said.

"He's listening to the business community and we've got employer groups who are constantly hammering at the public services for no other reason than to take Newfoundlanders and Labradorians back to the days when the merchants ruled, and we're not ever going to allow that to happen again."

Davis was light on specifics, but did reference long-term care for seniors as one area where there have already been advances.

He said there's more opportunities for private business to deliver some services more efficiently and effectively, while still providing quality services by the public service.

Furlong said it's not hard to find examples of privatization efforts that didn't go as planned, including a transferring of some health care building maintenance functions.

These privatization musings by the premier are all about taking the public’s money and using it to reward corporate friends of the governing party.- Carol Furlong

She said private companies are providing the service at $150 per hour, while the same service can be provided at a rate of $25 by unionized workers.

She said snow snowclearing services transferred to contractors are being done at "four to five" times the cost.

Furlong said economists have predicted a turnaround in the province's economy, and she is urging the government against making any hasty decision.

"These privatization musings by the premier are all about taking the public’s money and using it to reward corporate friends of the governing party. The government has no mandate for such an economic transfer and a resulting reduction in services,” said Furlong.

“Public services are not the premier’s to sell. If this is the government’s new agenda, what the province needs is an election, not a budget.”

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