“The elimination of 24-hour snow-clearing is just one part of the equation. What we are seeing and experiencing now is the result of years of cuts to the highways division of Transportation and Works." — Jerry Earle, NAPE President
St. John's (05 Jan. 2017) — Jerry Earle, President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE/NUPGE) is speaking out about recent issues pertaining to snow clearing and the state of the province’s highways.
“The government continues to say that there has been no reduction in service compared to last year. This is categorically incorrect and the people of the province have seen through this falsehood,” said Earle. “The fact of the matter is that 24-hour snow clearing has been eliminated for 13 routes across the province — from Pitts Memorial Drive and the Outer Ring Road, from St. John’s to Clarenville, from Notre Dame to Grand Falls-Windsor, from Deer Lake to Corner Brook and from Corner Brook to Stephenville."
"This is essentially the main artery of the island portion of the province," Earle continued. "We have heard from countless people across the province, including from our own members, that the level of service being provided this year is less than previous years. This poses a serious risk to the motoring public that depend on adequately cleared and salted roads to get to work and during emergency situations,” Earle said.
On-call snow clearing a great concern for residents and workers
“Reducing 24-hour snow clearing to an on-call basis has created a number of issues that are of immense concern to our union,” continued Earle. “Under the new system, snow-plow operators need to be reached at home, they need to head into the depots on unsafe roads to get to work, and then they need to get the plow ready and out on the road. This not only poses health and safety concerns, but it creates a lag in response time. We also have concerns for the snow-plow operators that are being kept on from the day shift, as they are on the road for extended periods of time. We are hearing that some operators are already starting to get burnt out.”
“Despite what the government says, the crews that used to be on 24-hour snow clearing provided a vital service to the people of the province — ready and able at a moment's notice to clear snow, spread salt and gravel, perform maintenance, and spot check for problem areas,” said Earle.
“All of these issues are compounded by the fact that we are short staffed in some areas of the province, and we have a number of snow-plows and heavy machinery that have been out of commission, in some cases for several months,” said Earle.
Highway infrastructure in disrepair due to cuts to Transportation and Works
“The elimination of 24-hour snow clearing is just one part of the equation. What we are seeing and experiencing now is the result of years of cuts to the highways division of Transportation and Works,” said Earle.
“In recent days we have seen the absolute havoc that has been created due to a sinkhole in the highway near Holyrood,” said Earle. “Our members have been saying for years that reductions in summer and winter maintenance operations have meant that our province’s highway infrastructure is in a serious state of disrepair. Our members simply have not been given the resources to provide the repair and maintenance work necessary to do the upkeep required – like clearing blocked culverts to allow proper drainage, for example. While we cannot say what the cause of the sinkhole in question was, we can say that we foresee similar occurrences happening in the future unless changes are made.”
“It makes much more sense from an economic and health and safety point of view to do the work up-front as opposed to dealing with the aftermath like we are currently experiencing on the highway near Holyrood,” said Earle.
“At the end of the day, the message from us is clear – reinstate 24-hour snow clearing and give our members the resources they need to do the job right, not for their sake but for the sake of the people of the province who travel our province’s highways,” stated Earle.
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