Nfld. & Labrador

Busy Christmas will push ratification of agreements into new year, says union

The Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees and Government of Newfoundland and Labrador have reached tentative agreements for the union's various bargaining groups.

NAPE credits willingness to compromise and involvement of new finance minister in getting deal done

Jerry Earle, president of NAPE, says his union has reached tentative agreements with the provincial government. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Compromise and a cabinet shuffle played roles in securing new agreements between the Newfoundland and Labrador government and its unionized workers.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees announced Monday morning that it and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador had reached tentative agreements for the union's bargaining groups.

No details on the contracts have yet been released.

Newfoundland and Labrador Finance Minister Tom Osborne says new agreements reached with the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees will be good for taxpayers, government and the workers. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Asked Monday afternoon if the appointment of new Finance Minister Tom Osborne — who took over the portfolio in late July — had had an effect on negotiations, NAPE president Jerry Earle said it played a role.

"But also it was government in general coming to a realization that sit down and talk, or you can take a polarized position where it's our way or no way," he said.

"I've got to give him credit. Minister Osborne did interject himself into negotiations. Actually, in recent negotiations he sat down and participated fully in the process. I believe that led to a successful conclusion."

Announcement short on details

The two groups reached what they called a "framework" for a collective agreement in November, which signaled that progress was being made.

Osborne said he couldn't provide a sense of how much the new agreements will cost taxpayers, as "that would be akin to leaking some details of the negotiations" for agreements that have yet to be ratified by the union.

"I will say that through this process we've reached a deal that works for the people of the province, for government and for our very valued public servants," he said.

The tentative agreement applies to general service workers at Confederation and 14 other bargaining groups. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

The finance minister was similarly vague when asked if the agreement protects jobs.

"From a government perspective, we were keenly aware of the fiscal situation the province was in, and one of the considerations was job protection. And I'm going to zip it now."

The tentative agreements apply to the following NAPE bargaining units: Air Services, CNA Faculty, CNA Support Staff, General Service, Group Homes, Health Professionals, Hospital Support Staff, Laboratory X-ray, Marine Services, MOS, NLC, School Boards, Student Assistants, Ushers, and WorkplaceNL.

Ratification won't happen before new year

The next step is ratification by members, which will not take place until early next year. The closer to Christmas, the harder it's been to get meeting space in St. John's, said Earle.

We've secured a collective agreement that sees significant job protection in it … and sees very little erosion of the collective agreement.- Jerry Earle

"Just last Friday when we brought in our negotiating teams to St. John's, we had difficulty even getting a room to meet in St. John's," he said.

"The time lag now is problematic, and I recognize that, for the membership. But the most I can say to members now [is] we've secured a collective agreement that sees significant job protection in it, that recognizes the economical time that we're in in this province, and sees very little erosion of the collective agreement."

In difficult times, you protect what you have, said Earle.

"Yes, there was some compromise that had to be made in a couple of areas, but it's all about trying to maintain and addressing issues that we have heard across this province."