Nfld. & Labrador

Liberal budget a 'betrayal', says NAPE leader Jerry Earle

"A broken promise" and "a betrayal" is how the leader of one of the province's largest unions is describing the budget.
NAPE President Jerry Earle says Premier Dwight Ball has broken his promise to not cut government jobs. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

"A broken promise" and "a betrayal" is how the leader of one of Newfoundland and Labrador's largest unions is describing the new Liberal budget.

"Months ago, the premier, the minister of finance and others were promising no job cuts and here we are just three months later with upwards of 650 full-time equivalent job cuts, said Jerry Earle, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees.

According to Earle, as many as 800 individuals could be affected.

"It's unacceptable. The sense of betrayal that members are feeling. They thought they were promised by the now premier of this province that they would not lose their jobs but now a minimum of 650 are going to lose their jobs.I think Premier Ball and Cathy Bennett should have to look those people in the eye and tell them 'I broke my promise'."

The provincial government says it will announce more measures in fall when it delivers a supplemental budget, which Bennett, the minister of Finance, described as a "mini-budget."

Next fall our members are going to be thinking 'am I next?- Jerry Earle

"Normally when a budget is done people can breathe a sigh of relief for 12 months. They can't this time. Next fall our members are going to be thinking 'am I next?' because they broke their promise six months ago, are they going to break it again?" said Earle.

He said the impact of the budget will go well beyond unionized workers.

"People are going to hold on to their dollars a little longer and it's going to harm the provincial economy and it's going to hurt our rural communites," said Earle.

He expects the coming round of collective agreement bargaining with the provincial government will be difficult.

"We will bargain fairly openly and transparently but I can tell you we are going to bargain tough," said Earle.

Cabinet salaries cut by 10 per cent

Speaking with reporters, Bennett said cabinet ministers decided to cut their own salaries by 10 per cent. 

"Our cabinet after the discussions and choices that we had, wanted to lead by example," said Bennett, who refused to speculate on what that decision may mean for unionized workers.

"Our collective bargaining will be done with the unions. We are not going to have conversations in the media. We are not going to have conversations anywhere else but with our union leadership," said Bennett.

"Ten per cent is the amount that the colleagues that I sit with in cabinet felt was an appropriate amount of money, based on the fact that we want to show leadership."