Budget ‘brutal,’ says labour leader

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees president Carol Furlong finds the bumping process “horrifying for many of our members.” — Telegram File photo

Depending on who you asked following the release of the 2013 provincial budget, you would get a different total on the number of people affected by government job cuts and layoffs.

Provincial union leaders insist none of the official numbers are acceptable.

As part of the budget, the government announced 1,181 jobs will be eliminated, including layoffs for 485 employees in the core public service, 246 vacant positions that will not be filled, and 450 positions being cut outside of core government departments.

A hiring freeze remains in effect.

In addition, 190 workers have been approved for early retirement packages. Some of their positions will ultimately be filled, and some will not.

The job cuts and layoffs reflect the result of a top-to-bottom review of the core public sector, said Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy.

“It’s a tough situation. It’s not one that I particularly like. It’s not one that any of us likes. But it’s something that we have to do in order to ensure that we can reduce the deficits and return to a surplus in three years,” he told reporters, before delivering his budget speech.

He said he does not expect everyone losing their government jobs will be able to simply side-step into a position in the private sector.

 

“I don’t think it’s going to be as simple as that for everyone,” he said.

On the heels of the announced cuts, the bumping process within departments will kick in, with senior workers considering the option of taking positions held by their less experienced peers.

“This is horrifying for many of our members,” said Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE) president Carol Furlong.

“We’re talking about over 2,000 job vacancies, jobs eliminated in this system. That means that public services have to be impacted. You can’t tell me, no one’s going to convince me, that 2,000 jobs are gone and the people of the province won’t notice it. It’s crazy,” she said.

“It’s not just about the people who are actually getting layoff notices. It’s also about the people who are staying in the system and have to pick up all of the slack from those 2,000 jobs that are gone.”

Her total, higher than Kennedy’s, includes changes made earlier in the year within heath care and 226 job losses attributed to changes in employment assistance services, as a result of cuts in funding to third-party service providers.

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) leader Wayne Lucas questioned whether any of the job cuts were really necessary, considering the province’s actual deficit of $563.8 million, lower than the $1.6 billion being forecast prior to the budget announcement.

“Now if they found a billion dollars in six weeks, is there really a need to have these job losses? It was this government that hired these individuals on and if the public sector exploded — this government hired them on. I didn’t hire them on. No union leader here in this hall hired these employees on.”

Not all departments are seeing the same pains.

The largest number of layoffs in the core public service will come in Justice, where 147 layoffs are expected and 52 vacant positions will be cut. That department has 1,648 employees.

Despite the news of government cuts and layoffs, the province is predicting employment growth in the coming year, paired with a one per cent drop in unemployment.

That is little comfort to Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour president Lana Payne, who questioned how many of the new jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador are related to construction and short-term industrial projects.

“This is a brutal budget for a lot of people,” she said.

“There’s no doubt there are going to be construction jobs out there … but they’re not going to be there forever and we’re making decisions today, permanent decisions about public services, based on what really is a short-term problem and fictional numbers we were given 60 days ago by the finance minister.”

 

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

 

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees, Union of Public Employees, CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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Comments

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Recent comments

  • Right on
    March 27, 2013 - 19:22

    I agree with( red )government has a knack of finding ways to blow money. Like spending $120,000 on a softball Field in a community not enough children to form a team but I did hear they will be having spring camp for a seniors team no problem with that one about 85% senior living in the community.

  • ben
    March 27, 2013 - 18:50

    Lay off the teachers and pay the unionized unducated labour $30-40 to work in Muskrat Falls... Great idea.... The premiers friends must be quite happy to have such a caring person to meet their needs...Does he think that we are idiots? What's in it for her to have jumped so quickly to approve the Falls project with no transmission agreement to get the power thru Nova Scotia. An a token Cabinet cut? With 37 PC members we have 14 ministers? Why? 48 membersto serve 500,000 Newfoundlanders.. #0 would be too many... ALL THEY CARE ABOUT IS THEMSELVES.

  • mainlander
    March 27, 2013 - 15:14

    Get over it already. You are and have been for some time a have Province. Change your ways and stop looking for hand outs. The budget was a wake up call that you have to start managing your wealth.

    • P. Murphy
      March 27, 2013 - 18:18

      Mainlander - What wealth are we supposed to manage, please inform us. Most of the people in Newfoundland and Labrador are hard-working and never had a hand out in their lives. You do not know what you are talking about obviously. It is hard to survive in the midst of an economy that is not interested in the lower income worker. Unless you are joking with the comments you just wrote, you are living in Never, Never Land. Easy to be rude and condescending when hiding behind a silouette.

    • jason
      March 27, 2013 - 19:03

      Typical coming from a mainlander!

  • govt employee
    March 27, 2013 - 12:22

    Doesn't matter who you work for getting laid off means more folks out there competing for the few jobs that exist. They will go on EI which is also paid by the taxpayer and then god help us they may have to go on Social assistance, which is more government monies. All this is doing is degrading people more than they already are. The "booming economy" is only widening the gap between the rich and the poor. I for one have not seen a single benefit from our supposedly prosperous economy.

  • taxpayertoo
    March 27, 2013 - 12:11

    I think if I hear we are a "have" province one more time I am going to scream. We CANNOT be a "have" province when the government is laying off so many. Unemployed people are not an example of a "have" province. The Unemployment here is as bad as it always was and getting worse. The only changes we have seen as a result of the oil is that our houses have doubled in price in the last year and our taxes have gone through the roof. Everything is more expensive and we are not making the salaries to keep up. Laying off govt workers is just putting more folks out there competing with the few jobs available. EI has become useless as they are expecting folks to travel to work even if they are underemployed. Please Mr. Speaker tell me how one can live on a minimum wage salary…… The Union leaders are not helping, everything we hear on the news is scare tactics between the govt and the union leaders, the Union as a group have heard diddly squat from any reliable sources.

  • P Murphy
    March 27, 2013 - 11:10

    i would have felt better about the budget if Muskrat Falls was halted until Newfoundland and Labrador could afford it. If that ever happens. This is being done at the hands of the taxpayer, and we do not see any breaks for us, just the forecasted revenues our tax dollars will bring to the government bank. As for all the job cuts, that is never a good thing and no one who is living in reality can think differently. We are not a have province. For a brief moment there a few years ago it looked like we might be, but that dream ended by morning. In my opinion, the biggest waste of our tax dollars rights now is Muskrat Falls. I am dreading the chaos that will undoubtedly result in the loss of services the public of Newfoundland and Labrador are about to get because of our government's decision to balance their budget by unemploying people. This will have a dominoe effect shortly, as more people will have to be forced to get employment insurance and then social welfare which government has to pay and so tell me, what did all those job cuts gain. Hopefully the next election will change colors.

  • original townie
    March 27, 2013 - 10:29

    @ wait times.....are you suggesting wait times can get longer? We are talking civil servents here. Will anybody really notice? How many times have I waited in line when it was finally my turn to get served....wicket shuts down. Gone on break. Or they talk to their co-workers for five minutes about "nothing" while I and others patiently wait in line. I think service could possibly (and I stress possibly) could get better as civil servents will now be required to work. Efficiency at best was only ever 50%. It's about time we trimmed some fat off that govt pig.

  • Joe schmoe
    March 27, 2013 - 09:45

    Taxpayer, you haven't a clue! You are not going to pay any less in taxes because of any of this. Whatever savings are made will be blown elsewhere. Don't be a typical jealous newfie, and go get some education and a decent job instead of crapping on others that did. It's the likes of you who make this place such a burden to live in.

  • mainlander
    March 27, 2013 - 09:31

    Typial union statement. Dot worry about the costs..just keep everyone employed so they can pay their union dues and keep the union reps paid for doing nothing. What do they do anyway?

  • John
    March 27, 2013 - 08:59

    Mr.Taxpayer,you sir are a ripe old fool and one of types of people that make this place as bad as it is.I am one of those affected by the job cuts and will be unemployed very soon.I worked hard and studied hard to get where I am and am definitely not living in an "ivory tower",rather a small rented apartment as my debts and student loans make it impossible to buy a house in today's market.I am far from rich because I have a public sector job and there are lots more like me.Good ole newfies are always hating people better off than than them and looking to bring everyone else down with them.Friendly bunch for sure.All stereotypes.

    • Two Cents
      March 27, 2013 - 11:07

      Could not agree with you more here on your comment. Why is it that the people of this province harvest such contempt for those who upon their own initiative work hard to better themselves? It seems to have been and still is such a long standing attitude here. To add, Taxpayer calls making $25/hr. a means to provide oneself with an "ivory tower?" As for the benefits, they are cost shared and the employees pay their premiums for such. No wonder the employers of this province have the attitude that they can pay employees low wages. If these people feel that they are only worthy of being paid such a wage, the employers are going to pay you as such. Instead of complaining about people who value their education and work ability to better themselves and state that they are deserving of more, why don't you join in and your situation may improve too!

  • Wait Times
    March 27, 2013 - 08:18

    I geuss we can all expect our wait times longer for services such as motor registration, birth certicicates, electrical permits so pack a lunch.

  • red
    March 27, 2013 - 08:12

    Taxpayer if you think you will be paying less taxes then dream on, government has a knack of finding ways to blow money. Just because you are unhappy with your unpaid job makes it ok to layoff everyone with a job better than yours? Instead of wishing hardship on everyone else why don't you get an education and find a better job. People like you are why employers abuse workers because they can.

    • Taxpayer Two
      March 27, 2013 - 09:15

      I am happy with my job, just not happy with my taxes funding civil servants with their hands out for more and welfare/unemployment abusers who refuse to work. Education does not equal pay. There are many in the civil service for the last 20+ years on nothing more than a high school diploma as times were different. Some fishermen may not even have high school, but own million dollar boats. Recent college grads working at fast food joints. Immigrants who were doctors and engineers in their home countries driving taxis.

  • Richard
    March 27, 2013 - 08:03

    Danny Williams grew the public service in this province by nearly 25% and then gave most of its membership a 20% raise. This was little more than a vote buying exercise to ensure his popularity. The result was a nearly 43% increase in the cost of the ciil service. Few Newfoundlanders would inficate that they received 43% more or better services as a result. It is sad to see 1200 positions cut, because of the lives affected and families impacted, but the rate of spending on this province's public service was way out of whack. Someone had to start cleaning up the mess Mr. Williams created.

  • Don
    March 27, 2013 - 08:03

    Lucas and Payne are nuts. They are suggesting we should keep 1100 uncessary jobs filled at the taxpayers expense. Typical Union response.

  • Rhonda
    March 27, 2013 - 07:54

    Well once again the hard working people of NL are given another blow. Just 5 years ago, the then Premier Mr.Williams was pleading with those of us living abroad to come home...there are so many opportunities and jobs and come home to be with your families....I did four years ago....since then I have lost my savings due to paying too much money for rent and daily expences, the cost of living is so much higher here than in Ontario, can't buy a house because there is no full time work that pays more than a beggars wage. I went back to school for a 2 year Office Admiistration Technology program and now at the end of my program I am not even able to find a work term placement in my field due to hiring freezes which means I won't graduate from my program that I have worked so hard to obtain an honours standing...Thank you for the lies and BS that have cost me so much! I now have to uproot my kids and move back to Ontario where at least I can get a fair wage job and not worry about how/when I can feed and care for my family....it sucks, it is not fair to not just my family but countless others who will have to once again uproot and go away!!!! My heart goes out to all of the affected people and thier families and friends...I know how broken I am both mentally and financially and it is not easy. I hope there will be enough in the budget for mental health help because many are going to need it!

  • Willi Makit
    March 27, 2013 - 07:26

    Sad to see anyone laid off but it's sadder to see non-renewable resource money frittered away on wages. Almost 1 in 4 employed in this province work in the public sector. That's 55,000 employees. That's far too high a number by any stretch. 8000 of those were hired since 2006. There could easily be more cuts and for our grandchildren's sake, hopefully there will. Government is not a make work project.

  • Seymour coates
    March 27, 2013 - 07:22

    After this budget, Lets cut Jerome Kennedy wages by $20,000 and let us see if he has a Smile On His Face than Sad to see Jobs Gone

  • Ed Fry
    March 27, 2013 - 07:04

    Wayne Lucas needs to shake his head long and hard. He is essentially saying that we should happily take on an extra half billion dollars in debt (that's just for ONE year). The size of the deficit is irrelevant - we MUST stop living beyond our means, and that includes rolling back the size of government and the services they offer. There is so much waste in government, they could cut the public sector by 40% and still function, as long as they stopped doing busy-work and started doing real work.

  • Taxpayer
    March 27, 2013 - 07:01

    Good. These government workers are/were collecting $25+ an hour with benefits. I make half that and worker overtime with no benefits so I can pay taxes to pay government workers. Now, those in ivory towers can see what it is like to be a normal worker. The less government workers and the less they are paid, the less of my taxes are collected (or should be) and wasted, so it is better for me. Cut more, please!

    • Too Funny
      March 27, 2013 - 08:25

      Thats funny, because the people in the "ivory towers" are paying more in taxes than you.

    • nothing funny about it
      March 27, 2013 - 09:10

      What's "too funny" is someone stating that a employee in a job that is 100% funded through government revenues is paying more in taxes than a private sector employee. Must be union math