Trades workers rally for pay increases

Ashley Fitzpatrick
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Eastern Health workers say wages causing recruitment and retention issues

Among those at the demonstration were NAPE members and Eastern Health trades workers Jeff McCromack (left), and Terrence Rideout (right).— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

About 50 tradesmen — electricians, painters, plumbers — took their lunch breaks to rally outside of the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s today.

The workers said they were highlighting the growing wage disparity between public and private sector workers, specifically between tradespeople inside Eastern Health and those working for private contractors. The gap, they say, is causing problems with worker recruitment and retention inside the provincial healthcare system.

It is another issue in the province’s growing list of items to be considered under the umbrella of skilled trades and apprenticeships.

Electrical foreman Keith Moore said he was taking part because he feels the wage gap is too large. As an example, he claimed, an electrician with Eastern Health makes about $23.50 an hour, while the wage “just across the street” at Memorial University of Newfoundland is about $33.

“We work with eachother. We do power tests together. Do you think that’s right?”

While both numbers might sound high, the Eastern Health wages are stated before deductions for benefits and, in both cases, the wages are lower than those being offered by private industry, he said.

Electrician Paul Smith said he has been with Eastern Health for 10 years and his take home is along the lines of $13 or $14 an hour.

The result of wages at that level, he said, is a loss of workers to private industry jobs and a tough time recruiting replacement workers who still need time, sometimes years, to learn all the aspects of plying their trade within the healthcare system.

Smith and other workers, as well as NAPE president Carol Furlong, said wage issues have been before the provincial government for years now but nothing has been done.

Furlong said she sees a “crisis” for tradespeople working within government, particularly as provincial megaprojects come online over the next few years, pulling skilled workers away from their current jobs and into higher paying positions.

If something is not done, she said, “we are going to find ourselves with a major problem down the road.”

NDP MHA for St. John’s North, Dale Kirby, was the only MHA to attend the event. Kirby is the NDP’s critic on Advanced Education and Skills and Labour.

Kirby said the skilled labour shortage noted in some, not all, trades as of late is one issue. The issue of the healthcare system losing skilled workers to the high wages in the private sector is another.

“I think the workers here are making a good argument,” he said, encouraging the province and Eastern Health to find a way to “get out ahead of” anticipated worker losses as projects like Hebron ramp up and offer better wages to workers already in the system.

“I don’t think it’s going to grossly increase wages to some unaffordable point.”

More in tomorrow’s edition.

Organizations: Health Sciences Centre, Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees

Geographic location: Eastern Health

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page



Recent comments

  • DEE
    March 21, 2012 - 20:11

    I would like to say that first the pay is minus the benefits Scott????You see this what the skilled trades at eastern health is dealing with. The general conception that skilled trades are over paid for doing nothing is really silly. This stigma has been around too long and should be corrected at every opportuntiy. The Skilled Tradespeople at Eastern Health are nothing short of professional at their work and towards the people (sick or otherwise) they encounter on a daily basis. They are relied on heavily to keep things running smooth for O.R.'s, Lab and X-ray depts., clinics, dietry, etc.... Their professionalism alot of the time goes un-noticed and is reflected in the renumeration they receive and the demands expected of them beyond their 37.5 hr work week as essential employees. I would say that the time is here that the general public should get the facts about the people who hold this institution together. Without Skilled Trades at Eastern Health caring for the system it would be unpleasant to say the least.

  • Wages
    March 14, 2012 - 19:05

    From the comments made on this article, I feel NL still has the old mentality of thinking how one should be lucky to have a job or if you don't like your job, there are more people who will be willing to work at it. Why is it that this province harvests such jealousy and has such an issue with one doing okay for his/herself? It is this such thinking that places this province so behind in getting on board with the other provinces of this country in wages; employers have the mindset that you are lucky to be working with them. And for those who think unionized employees are so well or over paid, then before you comment, look at a job posting for these skill trades jobs or any job for that matter. For the education and experience these employers demand for hire, it is disgraceful what the salary is. Oh but then it is NL so it is alright. As well, what about all of those years of wage freezes, i.e. the nine straight years of a wage freeze in the early 1990s, the one and sometimes two years of wage freezes out of a 3 or 4 year contract. How many of you who have commented here, the ones that actually work, receive an increase yearly or even bonuses yearly but a unionized worker is not entitled to a raise? Time to modernize NL. No wonder so many young people finishing post-secondary school are leaving this province, they want to earn a respectable salary. There will be one more added to that increasing number of people who are moving away.

  • Dave
    March 14, 2012 - 17:40

    Unskilled people who are lucky to have highschool getting more pay than 75% of Newfoundland. I see you guys everyday and I know that you don't even know the concept of real work. You are whining because in the private sector you will get less pay, no benefits and couldn't hack it. Stop your whining.

  • Rook
    March 14, 2012 - 16:33

    Charles needs to learn some grammer before he comes on here with his ignorant comments

  • Robb
    March 14, 2012 - 14:46

    What a bunch of crap.........this is real union speak....hey, someone over there is getting 10 cents more an hour than me, I better strike...or at least stand up in front of some building to see if anyone cares...well guess what, we don't......we all have to take care of business....why should anyone have to listen to you whine about what you get and what you don't get......none of my business, and my business is none of yours........this union mentality is sickening.....they will look around until they can find someone in a better position, and then demand that they get the same deal.......well, why don't they compare themselves to workers in 3rd world countries....why just stop at comparing themselves to other provinces...well, it does not fit their if you don't like your job or your pay, move on.....don't complain, no one is listening.

  • David WIlson
    March 14, 2012 - 14:28

    This is why we live in a free society. If you don't like your current rate of pay then you move onto another employeer. Who hasn't left a job for another higher paying one. The employer won't be long getting tired of having to find replacement workers if their current workforce keeps leaving for higher paying jobs. I call it Workplace Supply & Demand. When the Supply of cheap labor evaporates then workers can Demand higher wages. Some of these guys have to leave to improve the situation for those staying around. Sad but true.

  • Charles
    March 14, 2012 - 14:19

    Catherine D...I have a son inlaw who work in the trade at one of those building...He come home cleaner...then he lift ...His biggest problems is to keep the ass in his pant...Yes I tell him that...he should be a shame to take a pay cheque...I can't speak for anyone else...I don't wants my taxes to go up anymore...I'm paying to much now...for the service i get for my money

  • Catherine D
    March 14, 2012 - 13:54

    These men are not looking to lie in the sun, they are just looking to make a decent wage next to their counter parts. They are hard workers and deserve a wage increase!

  • Scott
    March 14, 2012 - 13:38

    I'm getting $17: 00 per're getting $23.50 per BENSFITS...I feel sorry for you...Your not that important to the if you want a better job...leave someone else will...take your place..and be happy with it.

  • Missus
    March 14, 2012 - 13:26

    Ignorant comment to make there Charles. Most other provinces in Canada pay tradesmen way more than in NL. It's a shame really. There would be more Newfoundlanders moving back home if they could make the same money they do away.

  • Charles
    March 14, 2012 - 13:10