PUBLIC SECTOR BARGAINING UPDATE 1

JANUARY 12, 2016

TO:      All NAPE Members

FR:      NAPE President Jerry Earle

Dear brother / sister, I am writing you today to provide our first update on the upcoming round of public sector bargaining.

COMMUNICATIONS

During the Biennial Convention and at each of the Component Conventions, we committed to providing timely information and updates regarding public sector bargaining.  We also committed to being as candid and forthright with members as possible given the sensitive nature of negotiations.

One thing I want to be clear on, these are your negotiations – they belong to the members of NAPE.

This communication comes to you as part of a series you will receive in the weeks and months ahead.

WHERE WE ARE

Beginning March 31 of this year, contracts affecting in excess of 17,000 members who work directly for government or government related services expire (the contract for Correctional Officers has already expired). They are:

Air Services

CNA Faculty (August 31)

CNA Support Staff

Correctional Officers

General Service

Group Homes

Health Professionals

Hospital Support Staff

Laboratory X-ray

Marine Services

MOS

NLC

School Boards

Student Assistants

Ushers (August 31)

WorkplaceNL (May 31)

Component conventions were held throughout the Fall of 2015 and into the New Year. Component conventions are where bargaining teams are elected, resolutions are discussed, debated and voted on, and the strategy and goals of the component are laid out for the coming years. It is the component that democratically determines the issues and priorities that will be brought forward at the bargaining table.

In addition, delegates at these conventions elected their Negotiating Teams. The Teams negotiate with the employer on the members’ behalf.

Negotiating Teams are comprised of rank and file members and are assigned a full time Staff representative (Employee Relations Officer – ERO). Together, they will be tasked with negotiating their respective Component’s contract. The bargaining team negotiates with the employer on the members’ behalf.

In the coming months, your respective Negotiating Teams will meet with Negotiating Teams put in place to represent Government, Boards, and Agencies. Similar to our Negotiating Teams, the Employers’ teams will bring forward issues that they believe should be changed within contracts.  The process of negotiating will go on until both parties can agree on the terms of a new contract. This is referred to as a tentative agreement. It is tentative until members in each Component vote on the proposed contract.

If bargaining reaches an impasse – where both sides can’t reach a tentative agreement at the bargaining table – a conciliator is normally brought in to help both sides reach an agreement.

At the end of the bargaining process, the ability to accept or reject a contract is decided by the members via secret ballot voting. Every member has the right to vote on the agreement.

Your Negotiating Team will only make a recommendation on what they believe to be the best that could be attained via the bargaining process.

GOVERNMENT PROVIDES FISCAL UPDATE

On December 22 of last year, Union, business, and community leaders as well as provincial, federal and municipal representatives were requested to attend an Economic and Fiscal Update.

At that session, Premier Ball stated, “Newfoundland and Labrador is at a critical juncture and at no other time has it been more important for us to get our Province back on track. The Province is facing extremely difficult fiscal reality …..”.

Key points of the briefing:

  • economy is not performing as it was expected, mainly due to the declining price of oil and commodities;
  • projected deficit of Budget 2015/16 was $1.093 billion, but has ballooned to $1.96 billion;
  • gross revenue is down $887.7 million;
  • oil prices are expected to remain significantly lower than previous projections.

Fiscal outlook:

  • deficit forecast 2016/17 – $2.436.8 billion;
  • deficit forecast approaching $2 billion into 2020/21;
  • net debt forecast grows from $12.436.2 to $22.946.6 by 2020/21;
  • major projects such as Hebron and Muskrat Falls will wind down.

The fiscal reality of the Province, indeed the whole country, is challenging for the next several years.

It is against these challenges that we have to negotiate contracts for over 17,000 public sector members.

OUR APPROACH

While the current economic situation of the province makes for a challenging environment for this round of public sector bargaining, we will approach public sector bargaining with a spirit of openness and the desire to reach an agreement and hope the newly elected Liberal government will do the same. At this stage, the Liberal government and Premier Dwight Ball have exhibited a positive and collegial approach to bargaining. We are hopeful that this tone continues in the weeks and months ahead.

Our message to government and the employers that will be involved in public sector bargaining — NAPE will come to the table to bargain fairly, respectfully, and collaboratively, but we will not come to the table with our benefits and rights that we’ve fought for decades to attain up for the taking.

DEFENCE FUND – PROTECTION AND DETERRENCE

NAPE is in the best financial position in its history and will not hesitate to use those resources to support and defend our members, if we get to that point.

The NAPE Defence Fund is there to protect our members and provide financial compensation if there is a labour disruption, but it also exists as a powerful deterrent to job action – a strong incentive for employers to work with NAPE to reach an agreement at the bargaining table. We hope to never have to use the funds, but they are there as a last resort, if needed.

NAPE will do everything in our power to avoid getting to that point, but we will need the provincial government to come to the bargaining table with the same resolve.

MEMBERSHIP SURVEY 

The best interests of the membership are always paramount to us and guide our decisions. We want to ensure that the input of the membership guides the decision making process at the bargaining table.

To help achieve this goal, we will be sending out a membership survey to all members in the coming weeks.

The Survey will ask members a range of questions about their desires and expectations for bargaining as well as a broad range of topics important to members.

All members are encouraged to fill out and send back the survey – your opinion matters!

NEGOTIATION COORDINATION, SUPPORT, AND OVERSIGHT

To ensure that our Negotiating Teams have the support they require and to strengthen our overall approach to this round of public sector bargaining, I have established a Bargaining Oversight Committee comprised of Staff Negotiators and the Senior Negotiator that will regularly meet and coordinate with the Negotiating Teams and with myself and Secretary/Treasurer, Brother Bert Blundon.

The Oversight Committee will oversee, coordinate, and provide counsel for all facets of the negotiating process, including ensuring effective communications between all of NAPE’s Negotiating Teams.

We will also be holding a joint session in February of all the bargaining teams as well as the staff negotiators assigned to each bargaining unit. This will be the first time in many years that this will take place. It is important that the negotiating teams are well trained, equipped, and prepared for the task that they have been given – representing public sector workers at the bargaining table. For new Negotiating Team members, it will provide an educational forum and for all Committee members an opportunity to receive a full briefing.

Public sector bargaining will be a top priority for NAPE until we reach a tentative Collective Agreement.

We will do our utmost to ensure that you are informed of developments with regards to public sector negotiations.

For a complete list of your peers that have been elected to represent you in bargaining, as well as the NAPE Staff Negotiator assigned to each team please visit:  http://www.nape.ca/update/public-sector-negotiation-teams-2016/

The road ahead will indeed be challenging … but through our dedication and solidarity, I have no doubt that we will succeed.

In solidarity,

Jerry-Signature_2015 (SMALL)

Jerry