Ball links public-sector cuts to upcoming union negotiations

James McLeod
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The province’s largest union says if Premier Dwight Ball wants to negotiate about public-sector layoffs, that’s a non-starter.

Dwight Ball.

In an interview Friday afternoon, Ball talked about public-sector contract negotiations and, potentially, job cuts being tied to overall budget targets for spending cuts.

Ball said the government will draw up broad, overall targets for spending reductions and revenue increases by the government, and then there will be talks with the unions.

“(Those targets) will determine the budget process, and then the negotiations,” Ball said.

Last November, when Ball was campaigning in the general election, he categorically promised there would be no public-sector layoffs.

Shorly after the Liberals won, though, Ball revealed the province’s deficit was bigger than the former Tory government had previously revealed, and since then the new line is that “everything is on the table.”

The Liberal government is projecting a deficit of $2 billion driven by a crash in oil prices, and lower-than-expected offshore production, all of which is leading to much less revenue for the province.

Speaking to The Telegram, Ball said reducing the size of the civil service through attrition is still the “preferred option,” but Finance Minister Cathy Bennett has acknowledged outright layoffs are being considered.

Ball said all of that wil be tied up in talks with unions.

“We’ve met with some of the labour organizations and leaders right now, so what we’ve committed to — and it hasn’t changed — is attrition still remains as the primary source for us to see changes in numbers around the public sector, and a fair negotiating process,” Ball said.

“Once we get into that fair negotiation, we will see then what direction the discussion goes.”

Ball said job cuts in the government will be tied together with contract negotiations.

“They’re all connected, because it’s all where you save money and expenses,” he said.

None of this sits well with Jerry Earle, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE), the province’s largest public-sector union.

Earle said contract negotiations must be totally separate from job cuts, and if the government tries to bring up layoffs at the bargaining table, the union won’t play ball.

“To sit down and actually negotiate whether we're going to lay off 10 people or 1,000 people, that would not even be part of a union function. It's not something we would be part of,” Earle said.

“Let me be clear to government and to employers, that is not something that we actually go to the bargaining table and negotiate, layoffs. That's unilateral action that the employer or government takes, and obviously we would respond to. But that's not part of a collective bargaining process.”

Earle said he’s troubled by the government’s general tone regarding the dire state of the province’s finances.

“We can't have the economy going into a tailspin because everybody's feeling they're going to lose their job, they're going to have less money to spend. That's only going to have a further impact on the economy,” he said.

Ball is also under criticism for acknowledging the government might need to raise the province’s sales tax, after he campaigned in November against a two percentage point increase that the previous governemnt enacted.

Ball said knowing what he knows now, he might have made different election promises.

“Decisions may not have been the same if you had all the information, or if you were able to forecast better,” he said.

“I think you would probably see a different election platform from all three parties. The decisions that would have been made back in November based on $31 a barrel oil might have been different for a lot of different election platform items.”

Ball wouldn’t say rolling back the HST was a mistake, though.

“I’m not going to say today that based on where things are today and all the other information that’s come forward, what we would have done back then,” Ball said. “It’s no good for me to go back then. What I’ve got to deal with is the current situation today.” Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees

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Recent comments

  • Start The Conversation
    February 15, 2016 - 14:46

    Reduce costs, improve efficiency, save hundreds of millions! Why doesn't the Telegram do a story on attendance issues across the Public Service; especially among unionized employees. The average sick leave per employee is staggering. If everyone knew what it is costing for Public Servants to average 19 days of sick leave per year there would be an easy solution. Ensure there is a benefit for those who are sick, and in turn to compensate ensure that those who are not sick are working. Mr. Ball.... you don't have to lay off, get those who are being paid to work regularly. That's going to take a major shift in thinking on behalf of the unions, and get middle management working. Far more palatable than lay offs!

    • Tony Strong
      February 16, 2016 - 05:48

      If you scan the article about early retirements at City Hall you will see a note about..payout for unused Sick Leave....Public Servants are allowed to accumulate this leave.. One person leaving City Hall is collecting a pretty nice sum for his unused sick leave...35 yrs...16 days sick leave used...he didn't call in sick every long weekend and every morning when he felt lousy and on and on..I'll bet the government could save, millions by implementing this kind of thing..

  • Dolf
    February 15, 2016 - 12:33

    Ball is projecting a two billion dollar deficit, that's just for the current account. He's not saying anything about another two billion to continue Muskrat. The credibility of Ball, Bennett, and Coady is sinking fast. We wouldn't be just mortgaging our children, we'd be putting Newfoundland and Labrador itself on the chopping block.

  • Charles Murphy
    February 15, 2016 - 04:49

    Dwight please put the brakes on, Because your letting fear and panic cloud your judgement. when that happens then bad decisions follows. There is another way to approach this problem without to much hardship to the people. and in the end you will see prosperity.

  • Frank
    February 14, 2016 - 17:36

    What a vacuum of leadership we have now in the province and in Canada.

  • Me Next
    February 14, 2016 - 07:32

    Who out there agrees with me that all politicians are a bunch of liars. I thought in order to have talented educated politicians we had to pay them accordingly. Well ,we are paying them when do we get the talented, educated politicians???

  • Just the facts
    February 13, 2016 - 23:58

    Ignore the obligatory rhetoric from Earl and Ball, as the government shuffles back from the pre-election nonsense commitments. Whether the deficit is $1-billion or $2-billion, both must have known then, as they do now, that 50% growth in the public sector over 10 years of population decline, and the highest per capita public sector costs in the country, are unsustainable. Even if oil prices rebound (no sign of that so far), their MUST be big cuts in salary and contractor costs, and SOON!

  • Tax Payer
    February 13, 2016 - 22:15

    Right to the point - the Unions do not own Newfoundland. NL has the highest rate of government workers of all the Provinces.............Conservatives over the years buying votes. Danny you bailed in time and I suspect you knew what was happening.

    • Dolf
      February 15, 2016 - 14:50

      The labor force in NL is not owned by the unions as you're so quick to erroneously point out. The big money paid to MHAs and their associated offices are a huge chunk of the budget. Then there's the contracts and legal consultants which run into the millions. So be fair chum!

  • Gerry
    February 13, 2016 - 11:13

    Oil profits down? Take it out on the public service. Health care spending increases? Take it out on the public service. Canadian dollar impacting revenues? Take it out on the public service. We were the punching bag for the last government and we'll be the punching bag for this government too by the looks of things. Proving my argument that this government, in particular Cathy Bennett, are Conservatives in Liberal shirts. SHAME ON YOU, LIBERALS... we voted for CHANGE.

  • Deluded, deceptive or naive?
    February 13, 2016 - 10:56

    It is unclear if Mr Ball is deluded, deceptive or simply naive about what government must do in order cope with the sorry state of the provincial economy. Of course there needs to be public service job cuts, and of course Mr Earle cannot agree to negotiate them. Mr Ball would do well to just level with the people of NL about what is coming.

  • John
    February 13, 2016 - 10:45

    The blame for our situation lays completely on Danny Williams and Nalcor.....

  • Jim H
    February 13, 2016 - 09:05

    Someone is going to have to go eventually. I am sure if they made a check on the employees there are a few deadbeats. All they have to do is set up a program to see who working and not. I would start with management as they are the ones that keep the deadbeats on.

  • kd
    February 13, 2016 - 08:34

    here we go barely in office broken promises that should not been made in the beginning just to get elected same old liberal style and now we got wait four years to get rid of them

  • Jack
    February 13, 2016 - 08:31

    Not only should job cuts be tied to upcoming labour negotiations, so should reducing the number of bargaining units like Nova Scotia did when they merged all their health boards into one. In the case of Nova Scotia, when they merged all health board last year, they reduced the number of bargaining units from 50 to just four. Each of these four bargaining units represented a group of employees including one for nurses, one for health workers, one for clerical and administrative staff, and one for for support staff. Newfoundland and Labrador should take a page out of Nova Scotia and dramatically reduce the number of unions and bargaining units in an effort to reduce bargaining costs and ensure essential services are provided with minimal disruptions.

  • roy206
    February 13, 2016 - 07:52

    I'm not impressed and one can hardly overlook the Friday Afternoon Diversion (again)....The liberals have been in holding pattern for 2 years and should have been better prepared. Cathy Bennett said of Dwight Ball that he is the leader who expects the unexpected....yet we are still waiting for the workers at McD to give the government financial direction. ....and FYI..all the budget docs are online, any kid with a calculator could see that if oil drops from $140. to $40. then that will affect the finances......but it came as a shock for the liberals...Kicking important decisions down the road is costing us $8. Million per day..get on with governing, the photo op is over.

  • steve
    February 13, 2016 - 07:30

    O.K no layoffs and the union members only get 5 days sick leave a year like many others in the private sector instead of 50 or 60 million dollars a yr at Easter Health alone in sick leave abuse.

  • Wil
    February 13, 2016 - 06:44

    "Ball said knowing what he knows now, he might have made different election promises." “Decisions may not have been the same if you had all the information, or if you were able to forecast better,” he said. BIG SURPRISE!! Funny how the story changes once he got in eh? SAME OL' SAME OL'.... You reap what you sow

  • Spaz
    February 13, 2016 - 06:30

    So Mr. Ball, any future promises you make may or may not be true?