Provincial Budget Analysis and Overview
April 14, 2016
Today, the provincial government put forward its first budget. I won’t go into a full breakdown here as it would be too cumbersome; however, I will cover off some of the larger issues from your union’s perspective.
This budget has a number of measures that will have an immediate impact; I will touch on those below. However, a large part of the concern about this budget is that it sets the provincial government up to make larger cuts and service closures in the Fall.
What we have seen here is the implementation of Stage 1. It is clear in the budget that further action will be taken by this government in the coming months:
“Government Renewal Initiative. We have identified a number of policy options to further reduce expenditures, including:
· Government and departmental reorganization;
· Efficiencies through major program review and redesign;
· Consolidation of functions within the public sector; and
· Partnerships with the non-profit and private sector.”
– Quote from Budget Speech
This budget leaves a lot of questions for our union, ones that we will be seeking answers to in the coming days.
This budget also includes a number of office and service closures and reductions, which I will get into more detail below.
These cuts will have a huge impact on the services currently being delivered to the people of this province, particularly those in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
Let me be very clear, NAPE will stand up and fight for every single job and for every service. We are currently organizing our push back efforts in response to this budget. I have been front in centre in the media today, expressing our union’s varied concerns with this provincial budget.
Here is a high point overview of some of the issues in the budget that will have a direct impact on NAPE members and the services they provide. For the sake if brevity, I will not give a comprehensive overview of all aspects of the budget, but will focus on the most important parts.
JOB LOSSES – LAYOFFS
At the NAPE convention in October, during the provincial election, and numerous times since, Premier Dwight Ball and Senior members of his cabinet said, in no uncertain terms, that there would be NO LAYOFFS under a Liberal government; that public sector jobs would be safe. This was an unequivocal pledge to the people of the province – made numerous times.
Well, today there was the announcement that 450 Full-Time Equivalents in the Agencies, Boards and Commissions would be cut.
In core government, government announced that they would be eliminating approximately 200 positions; of that 125 people will be impacted directly. Approximately 70 percent of those jobs will be union jobs.
With bumping, possible part-time positions and other factors included, this could impact over 1000 people.
We believe notices will be given today or tomorrow for those who are impacted. If you are impacted, please get in touch with your Local Officer and/or Shop Steward or your NAPE ERO.
JOB LOSSES – ATTRITION
In addition to these layoffs, the government is going ahead with the previous government’s Attrition Plan.
Essentially, this means that instead of straight layoffs, the government will be reducing the public service by 1400 positions over the course of the next five years through retirements and resignations. While this method is preferred to straight layoffs, attrition by any other name is still a layoff – just on a longer timeline.
We have concerns that eliminating jobs in the public sector will have an impact on the vital public services that the people of this province depend on every day. You simply can’t do more, with less.
Given the size of the province and the demographics, a strong public service is required to deliver top quality services and programs in this province – services and programs that help stimulate the provinces economy and ensure a healthier, fairer, and more equitable society. Also, NAPE has concerns about the impact of reductions on the workers who are left to do the work in terms of stress, strain, quality of work, workloads, and health and safety.
This approach will also have a negative impact on young people trying to enter the workforce – if public sector workers are retiring and their positions are not being replaced, it means there is less opportunity for young workers entering the workforce.
EARLY RETIREMENT INCENTIVES
The government announced that they will not be offering early retirement incentives as a method of workforce reduction
PRIVATIZATION AGENDA – P3s
While there was no specific announcement about privatization or P3s in the budget, there was a reference to: “Partnerships with the non-profit and private sector.”
As many of our members are painfully aware, this agenda has been in place for some time. From food services, to healthcare security, group homes, our highways, and Adult Basic Education at the College of the North Atlantic, the impact of privatization is all too real.
Public-private partnerships (P3s) involve commercial contracts between public authorities (state or local) and private businesses in the design, construction, financing and operation of public infrastructure and services that have traditionally been delivered by the public sector, such as highways, hospitals or schools.
Public-private partnerships have fundamentally been about giving private investors and financiers high returns with low risks, at the long-term expense of taxpayers and the public. For example, the Auditor General in Ontario blasted P3s in that province for costing$8 BILLION more than if the same projects had been publicly financed, built and operated. This week, the Ontario AG released a report that roads in that province were less safe since privatization.
NAPE will continue to stand up for high quality public services and the workers who provide top quality public services to the people of this province and we will ensure that the government sees the folly of the P3 model or ensure that they pay the political price.
For more info, please visit www.dontletgo.ca
CUTS (“CONSOLIDATION”, CLOSURES, SERVICE REDUCTION, FUNDING CUTS, ETC)
While it may not be completely clear in the budget or the budget speech. There are a number of cuts happening that will impact our members. We are seeking clarification on a number of these items and will inform members ASAP.
The full listing can be found here:http://www.budget.gov.nl.ca/budget2016/expenditure/default.htm
Here is a list of some of those cuts/changes:
· Operational Savings Associated with the Closure of Eight AES Offices
· Relocate Avalon regional office to Confederation Building (BTCR)
· Close The Rooms to the public on Tuesdays, in addition to Mondays, from September 15 to June 15 each year
· Amalgamate regional offices and realign service delivery (CYFS)
· Departmental centralization of administrative services at St. John’s headquarters (Environment)
· Phased elimination of the Inland Fish Research Program within the overall research program.(Environment)
· Refocus and realign various components of the Environment Branch, including: Environmental Assessment and Sustainable Development, Water Resources Management and Pollution Prevention divisions (Environment)
· Efficiencies in the delivery of Medical Care Plan (MCP) including removal of walk-in services at the Grand Falls-Windsor office (HCS)
· Reduce operational grant to Central Regional Health Authority
· Reduce operational grant to Eastern Regional Health Authority
· Reduce operational grant to Labrador Grenfell Health
· Reduce operational grant to Western Regional Health Authority
· The Province will save approximately $1.3 million annually by restructuring the court system, including closure of Supreme Courts in Grand Falls-Windsor and Grand Bank, and Provincial Courts in Harbour Grace and Wabush. This will be achieved in consultation with the judiciary. (Justice)
· Discontinue winter road maintenance service delivery for municipalities where contractor services are available and increase the cap for winter road maintenance on municipal roads from $5,000 to $6,600 (TW)
· Eliminate 24-hour snow clearing (TW)
· Change ferry schedules (TW)
This is by no means a comprehensive review of the provincial budget, but I thought it was important to get a note out to the membership covering a few of the issues coming out of the budget.
Again, we will be monitoring impact going forward. With that said, we will not be sitting idly by and watch this government make decisions that negatively impact the public services of this province and the amazing women and men who deliver them.
Please stay tuned for additional information and updates as we organize the push back effort going forward.
Remember – there is strength in the union.