MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT – PROVINCIAL BUDGET 2021
Today, the Provincial Government put forward its 2021 Budget. It will take us some time to analyze the budget, the line-by-line impacts, and do follow up with various departments. The following serves as a very brief overview and initial analysis.
The budget clearly leans heavily on the Greene Report for its policy direction. Every aspect of government will be under an undefined process labeled ‘Accountability Framework Review.’ At this stage we have no details as to the timelines, parameters or impacts.
This is a “stay tuned” budget – stay tuned for future reviews, future plans, future privatization.
More details on the budget can be found here: https://www.gov.nl.ca/budget/2021/
Recommendations from the Greene Report can be found all over Budget 2021. Plans to review public services and government assets, including the NLC, ferries, registries as well as plans for ‘Joint Partnerships’ are simply flowery language for privatization and are a major concern for NAPE members.
The budget provided scant details on who will conduct these reviews of public services, what the timelines will be and how these reviews will align with ongoing consultations on the Greene Report.
BALANCED BUDGET LEGISLATION
Provincial government will introduce Balanced Budget Legislation. This legislation is a ‘poison pill’ that freezes the growth of public sector employment, freezes wage and benefits improvements, and, during economic downturns, is used for major cutbacks of public sector services and employment, as well as the legislative withdrawal of collective bargaining rights for public sector workers.
Government will review all agencies and boards as well as public assets – including reviewing ferry services, land registries, the NLC – and will seek out opportunities for ‘Joint Partnerships’ which are indications of plans for privatization in the short and long-term. This is a major concern for NAPE members who work at agencies, boards and commissions. These measures come directly from the Greene Report.
While there was no mention of direct job losses in today’s budget, privatization will have a devastating impact on NAPE members. Privatization means reduced quality, increased fees, worse outcomes, lower paying jobs, and corporations siphoning millions out of the province.
We are seeking additional details about the review processes and will update members when we have more information. We can say that this is a major red flag for our union.
This budget continues a freeze on funding for healthcare – in particular, funding to Regional Health Authorities. When taking inflation into account, funding for healthcare has essentially remained frozen for almost a decade. There has been a lot of talk of reducing healthcare costs, but our members have experienced the impact of frozen funding in their workplaces each and every day. There is no plan in this budget to deal with the multitude of issues relating to staffing levels.
Every day, healthcare workers are being asked to do more with less.
The budget includes measures to integrate corporate services of Regional Health Authorities. An integrated corporate services model was announced several budgets ago and some progress has been made on this front. If implemented in full, this will have an impact on a number of our members in payroll, finance, accounting, human resources, IT, and procurement.
We will be seeking further details about what this means, timelines for implementation, etc.
MEMORIAL UNIVERSITY/COLLEGE OF THE NORTH ATLANTIC
Funding for Memorial University will be cut by $68 million over 5 years, starting next year and will include the phase out of the tuition fee freeze.
College of the North Atlantic sees its budget, once again, essentially frozen. CNA will be subject to the review of agencies, boards and commissions.
The English School District will be eliminated and rolled back into core government. The Francophone School District will remain independent until further review is conducted and a new accountability framework is implemented.
JUSTICE AND CORRECTIONS
The budget includes $10 million for an extension to the Labrador Correctional Facility and to continue procurement of a new HMP.
While there are vague references to aging in place, there is no specific funding, policies or proposals regarding home care even though this work is crucial to our communities and to reducing stress and strain on our long-term care system.
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 particularly relevant to our Union and our members.
There are a lot of unanswered questions in this budget but it is very clear that Moya Greene’s fingerprints are all over it. While the budget uses vague and flowery language, reviews, joint partnerships and accountability frameworks are all coded language for cuts, consolidation, closures and selling off public assets.
While we are seeking answers to these questions, we will also be making it abundantly clear to this government that we will not allow them to balance the books on our members’ backs.
In the coming weeks and months, workers will need to stand united in the face of an agenda that aims to dismantle our public services. I know many of you might be breathing a sigh of relief today but there is a lot of uncertainty ahead and it will be our solidarity that will see us through.