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No-layoff clause does not extend to next contract: Osborne

Jerry Earle, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees, speaks at a news conference Friday.
Jerry Earle, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees, speaks at a news conference Friday. - Joe Gibbons

Finance Minister Tom Osborne offered firm assurance on Friday afternoon that the controversial no-layoff clause in the tentative agreement with NAPE will not continue into the next collective agreement.

Speaking to reporters before the House of Assembly, Osborne sounded off on Board of Trade chair Dorothy Keating for remarks made in the last week raising concern of an apparent no-layoff clause included in the tentative agreement.

“The Board of Trade have been absolutely irresponsible. They’re fearmongering. It is dividing communities. We have absolute certainty that this layoff clause does not rollover to the next agreement,” Osborne said.

“I’ve given that assurance to the Board of Trade weeks ago and they continue to fearmonger. It’s very unfortunate.”

Osborne called the tentative deal reached with the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE) “excellent.” He said the government is not going to utilize massive layoffs as a way to address budgetary concerns.

The message from the Finance minister did not match what NAPE president Jerry Earle told reporters earlier in the day. At a news conference, he did not offer the same assurances as Osborne. Earle left the window open for the no-layoff clause to continue into the next collective agreement.

Later in the day, Keating held her own news conference at the Board of Trade’s offices, and said Earle’s remarks “confirmed our worst fears” about the agreement.

But Osborne later quashed those concerns, and outlined exactly why he believes no layoffs for the duration of the next collective agreement with NAPE is the right move for the province.

“We are going to aim to achieve the same attrition success that we’ve achieved over the last two years. What we’ve agreed, in writing, is that we can still lay off, but there’s no mass layoffs for budget concerns,” said Osborne.

“The reality is this. Our public servants are real people, with real families, real children. They live in our communities, they shop at businesses, they’re members of the Board of Trade and other businesses. They contribute to our economy.

“We’ve had two megaprojects come to a close in this province. We’ve got unemployment numbers that are higher than any other province. We’ve got a third megaproject coming to a close in this province, being Muskrat Falls.

“We’ve got Fort MacMurray, where we had hundreds of people in this province bringing home huge salaries, and that’s no longer the case.

“We cannot afford to have fear in our public service that there will be mass layoffs. We cannot afford to have people wondering who’s next, and next. We’ve seen that pattern in the past, where people knew, through budget announcements, we’re going to lay off 400 people.

“Retail sales numbers show that people stop spending because they don’t know who’s next. We can’t afford, as a province, with our economy, to have that uncertainty.

“But what we can do is have the certainty that with an ageing population, we can achieve what we need to achieve through attrition. With an ageing workforce, we can achieve it. We don’t need fear in real families, where they don’t buy cars, they don’t buy sofas, they don’t shop. That’s what we don’t need.

“That’s what the Board of Trade is asking. I’m absolutely shocked that the Board of Trade would be asking for that uncertainty in our economy, when the economy is so fragile.”

NAPE is expected to ratify the deal by Jan. 30.

 

david.maher@thetelegram.com

Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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