Public service

Negotiating public service contracts in the Netherlands in a “fast” way is essential for workers tired of the pandemic: unions

ST. JOHN’S, NL — Unions representing the province’s public sector employees whose contracts have expired or are about to expire say the best thing to do to relieve the stress of pandemic-weary workers is for the provincial government to negotiate new collective agreements in a timely manner.

Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE) President Jerry Earle said public sector contracts for about 18,500 workers represented by NAPE expired on March 31 or are about to expire.

Earle said the union will bargain for 21 groups when negotiations begin.

“This will be a crucial round of negotiations (and it will ease) the stress on workers if we can get it done in a timely manner,” he said. “It would recognize the value of these workers. … We saw what they all did.

“Where others could work remotely during the pandemic, for example, student assistants were in schools with vulnerable children. Healthcare workers have had no respite at all. They still don’t have a break. … They went beyond excessive working hours. Social workers, corrections officers…everyone has been pressured, and I think the best thing we can do for all those public sector employees is to settle their collective agreements and say we recognize what you’ve done , we enjoy the work, and one less stressor that we can take away from them is getting collective agreements done in a timely manner and not dragging out collective bargaining as has sometimes happened in the past.

NAPE President Jerry Earle.  - Photo of SaltWire network file
NAPE President Jerry Earle. – Photo of SaltWire network file

CUPE NL Bargaining Committee Members from 23 locals across the province — representing more than 3,800 members who work in health care, long-term care, school boards, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp., Government House, public libraries and homes transition and group — held strategic planning meetings over the weekend. The public sector contracts of workers represented by CUPE expired on March 31.

CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador President Sherry Hillier said the provincial government’s potential cuts to public services and public sector jobs are concerning for workers.

She said the contents of the Prime Minister’s Economic Recovery Team report (the Greene report), including recommendations to cut and privatize services, and this week’s Rothschild and Co. report – a review of the assets of the province and what is potentially in this report – are disturbing.

“We’ll be watching the budget eagerly on Thursday,” Hillier said. “For many years, our members have suffered real wage losses due to provincially imposed wage freezes, reductions or minimum wage increases.

Sherry Hillier, president of CUPE NL.  - Contributed
Sherry Hillier, president of CUPE NL. – Contributed

“We got all of our committees together (over the weekend) and discussed our priorities as we represent seven different sectors. We wanted to determine the priorities to put on the table of the government on what we would like to see in the next line of negotiations. One of the most important for health care is overtime, recruitment and retention, and staffing levels — staffing shortages in long-term care in particular. Salaries are a big thing. The rate of inflation and the cost of living are increasing while salaries have remained about the same.