Premier settles contract with NAPE

James McLeod
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Ready to take on pensions

Premier Kathy Dunderdale managed to settle contract talks with the province’s largest public-service union Tuesday, and it looks like she’s poised to make changes to the public-sector pension plans — effectively addressing two of the biggest outstanding issues on the government’s fiscal agenda.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale had a busy media day Tuesday fielding questions from reporters on everything from drug-related violence in St. John’s to offshore oil exploration to free trade with Europe. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Tuesday morning, the government announced a tentative deal has been reached with the Newfoundland Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE), the province’s largest public-sector union. If members ratify the deal, they’ll get a five per cent raise over the life of the four-year contract.

During the first two years, the deal calls for zero per cent wage increases; in Year 3, a two per cent increase and in the final year of the contract, a three per cent pay bump. On top of that, full-time employees will get a $1,400 signing bonus, and temporary, seasonal and part-time workers will get a pro-rated bonus.

Dunderdale said she values the work of public servants, but the freeze on wage increases in the first two years of the contract reflect the fact the province is running a budget deficit.

“As the fiscal situation in the province improves, so do benefits,” Dunderdale said. “We think given where we are, given the raises that took place in our last round of negotiations, that this is a good deal for our public servants and a good deal for the people of the province.”

With the NAPE negotiations concluded, Dunderdale said the government is ready to make changes to the public-sector pensions.

“We’re going to talk more a little later this week about our pensions and the unfunded liability and approaches we might be taking,” Dunderdale told reporters cryptically Tuesday. “So stay tuned on that one. We’ll have more to say on that one in the days ahead.”

The unfunded liability is the biggest chunk of the province’s net debt, and while government efforts to pay down direct debt, the pension liability keeps going up.

But if the government is getting ready to make a move to fix the pensions, it’s news to NAPE president Carol Furlong. She said no deal on pensions was part of the negotiations they just wrapped up.

“We did not negotiate pensions,” she said.

New Democrat Leader Lorraine Michael didn’t want to weigh in on the NAPE contract deal — she said that’s between the union and the employer — but she said she’ll keep a close eye on the pension issues for any attack on the defined benefit pension plans.

“I think it’s essential that we keep it and stand fully behind the unions in that,” Michael said. “We’re going to be watching very carefully and closely.”

Liberal finance critic Dwight Ball said he was surprised to see an agreement so quickly. It was only about a week ago that the current round of negotiation started, after months of stalemate between the two sides.

“I guess like most people, we were surprised that they were able to reach an agreement as quickly as this, given that they really just reconvened this week,” he said. “Obviously NAPE seems to be happy with the deal, and I’m sure that government is very happy with getting this off their agenda.”

Furlong said there were meetings with Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy over the summer that kickstarted things again, and union members really wanted the situation resolved.

“We're glad to have this over with,” she said. “I know all the members I’ve been talking to over the last little while were anxious to have a collective agreement.”

Organizations: Newfoundland Association of Public and Private Employees

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Recent comments

  • Jack
    September 18, 2013 - 13:30

    @ Wildrose only civil servants making $93k are in mgmt and exec not union! The avg union salary is the reverse of that... $39k

  • david
    September 18, 2013 - 11:08

    Luckiest timing ever!!...she wasn't about to add a strike to her already plummeting poll numbers, so this deal was getting done at any and all costs....after all, its not her money.

  • Steve
    September 18, 2013 - 09:26

    It's important to note that Newfoundland's inflation rate rose at a flat rate of 7.1% from 2009-2012. A 5% raise over four years DOESN'T EVEN COVER RISING INFLATION. What a joke.

    • Trina
      September 19, 2013 - 07:43

      What a Joke Indeed!!!!

    • Trina
      September 19, 2013 - 07:44

      What a Joke Indeed!!!!

    • Trina
      September 19, 2013 - 07:46

      What a Joke Indeed!!!! The gov't paid employees are the lowest paid employees in the province.

  • stripes
    September 18, 2013 - 08:33

    Pensions should be based on actual employee and employer contributions made over the time of employment, and managed by a seperate entity. No government or business can sustain Unfunded pension plans for eternity.

  • Heard before
    September 18, 2013 - 08:24

    Just watch, give them 5% now and take back 8% in pension next month. 5% over 4 years is not much considering how prices have increased. It's the lower paid that keeps us going. The higher paid spend their money in Cuba, DR, FL etc

  • Eli
    September 18, 2013 - 08:20

    Furlong said if negots didn't go well she'd ask for arbitration. Dunderdale and Kennedy would have come out second best on that. Both got the message!

  • Wild Rose
    September 18, 2013 - 07:26

    The union's are runing this country. The goverment should get rid of the union's and let the private sector run things more cheaper and more iffecent than the unions! I'm sick of civil servants making $93,000 for sitting around doing nothing. And the big union bosses don't care because they are rich and they hate the rich. We are being taxed to death and I have to pay %60 taxes!

    • JJT
      September 18, 2013 - 07:57

      I suppose you're in favour of eliminating the minimum wage, too? Why should anyone get paid a decent wage? With a name like "Wild Rose" I would assume a link to Alberta... I don't like paying so much for oil and gas but a lot of the people working in that sector would laugh at $93000 a year.

    • Derrick W
      September 18, 2013 - 08:21

      Hey Wild Rose......... Which civil servant is making $93,000 a year ?? I only make $48,000 and I dont sit around doing nothing by no means

    • santo
      September 18, 2013 - 09:14

      Wild Rose, I am a civil servant, and I DO NOT make $93,000 a year, I don't even make $40,000 a year! you think we are all rich? You think we do nothing? There are many days I don't have time to pee!! Get a grip, this is not 25 years ago. You need a degree now a days just to get a clerical job with the Government. Why do you think everyone is going away? The Government pay sucks big time. I thought I was sent when I hooked a Government job, boy was I wrong. Looks like I won't even get a decent pension out of it. Oh, and I pay taxes too, imagine that!!!

    • Wild Rose
      September 18, 2013 - 09:26

      People in Alberta work hard. It's called the ALBERTA ATTITUDE and they don't expect the goverment to do every thing for them! That's why their winners! And if you're going to sit around all day giving out welfare checks or sling coffee because you cant be bothered getting a real job,I you should be paid what the market will pay. You're right minimum wage is big business and big unions telling businss men telling what to do. Work hard like me and you will be rewarded without unions! It's the ALBERTA ATTITUDE!

    • Colin
      September 19, 2013 - 07:45

      Wild Rose, you want Government to step in and do away with the right to freedom of assembly? Well, you can be as big government/ Nanny state as you want, but, me, I prefer freedom. Keep begging the Government to fix your problems for you I guess. That doesn't seem very "Alberta Attitude" though. Seems communist.

    • Colin
      September 19, 2013 - 07:59

      Wild Rose, you want Government to step in and do away with the right to freedom of assembly? Well, you can be as big government/ Nanny state as you want, but, me, I prefer freedom. Keep begging the Government to fix your problems for you I guess. That doesn't seem very "Alberta Attitude" though. Seems communist.