“As if this round of negotiations wasn’t already bizarre enough, we now have a situation where the government is at odds with itself about how bargaining should proceed. This is all very strange.” — Jerry Earle, NAPE President
St. John's (24 March 2017) — In another twist in public sector bargaining, the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills, and Labour has denied the Minister of Finance’s request for the services of conciliation boards for public sector bargaining. Instead, the Minister is appointing conciliation officers.
Government appears at odds with itself in public sector bargaining
While a conciliation officer can present a report to the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour after working with both sides, a conciliation board, consisting of 3 members, can work with both parties, file a report with the Minister that is made public, and make recommendations to resolve the outstanding issues at the table. Essentially, a board has more power to help resolve a dispute in bargaining.
“Although we don’t believe that conciliation services were needed this early in the bargaining process, we do support the Minister of Finance’s request for the use of conciliation boards as opposed to officers,” said Jerry Earle, President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE/NUPGE). “We firmly believe that this is the most prudent and viable conciliation mechanism for these 6 tables and any other tables going forward. In fact, NAPE/NUPGE wrote a letter to the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Labour to this effect.”
“I can’t figure out what’s going on with this government as it relates to public sector bargaining. It doesn’t make any sense,” said Earle. “As if this round of negotiations wasn’t already bizarre enough, we now have a situation where the government is at odds with itself about how bargaining should proceed. This is all very strange.”
Conciliation meant to help resolve bargaining, government's action confusing
On February 24, NAPE/NUPGE was served notice that the provincial government requested the appointment of conciliation boards for 6 bargaining tables: Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation (NLC), School Boards, Laboratory and X-Ray (LX), Maintenance and Operational Services (MOS), Group Homes, and Marine Services. In response, NAPE/NUPGE subsequently decided to file for conciliation boards for the other groups that are currently at the bargaining table.
“We were forced into filing for conciliation boards for the remaining groups at the table,” said Earle. “We didn’t want a situation where there were 2 streams and timelines of bargaining; where the government could try to divide and conquer our union. We have been unnecessarily pushed into a corner by this government.”
“All of the time spent dealing with this issue could have been time spent at the bargaining table,” stated Earle. “Between filing for conciliation so early in the process, breaking protocol and discussing bargaining table items in public, and missing important deadlines with other unions, you have to wonder if the government is being malicious or incompetent. Either way, it seems like they’re making it up as they go, despite the assistance of their high-priced external law firm.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. ~ NUPGE