The no-layoff provision tentatively agreed to between the provincial government and the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE) will cost the province “for generations to come,” according to St. John’s Board of Trade chair Dorothy Keating.
The deal between NAPE and government has yet to be ratified, with union meetings taking place over the next two weeks.
Documents received by The Telegram show the provision states, “The employer shall not use layoffs to effect provincial budgetary expenditure reductions.”
A “sunset” clause is not in the tentative agreement, which means the no-layoff clause will have to negotiated out of any future collective bargaining agreements.
No-layoff clauses are not unheard of in the public sector. In 2016, for example, the Public Service Alliance of Canada negotiated such a clause into the Canadian Museum of Nature collective agreement.
Such a clause is a first for NAPE, however.
Keating says it is irresponsible for the government to have tentatively agreed to the measure.
“The provincial government has negotiated a collective agreement which unequivocally guarantees that it would not lay off to save money at a time when the province is in a financial crisis,” Keating stated in a news release.
“The taxpayers of this province are left to bear the burden of this agreement for generations to come, as once a clause is introduced it is enshrined in collective agreements only to be removed if specifically negotiated out.”
Speaking to reporters at a Rotary event on Thursday, Premier Dwight Ball said large-scale layoffs are not the answer to the province’s messy fiscal situation.
“We don’t see (layoffs as) the solution to the deficit problem that we have in our province right now, an $800-million deficit situation that will require thousands and thousands and thousands of people that would have to be laid off to satisfy that commitment,” Ball said.
“We still have attrition, we still have opportunities within government to make sure that we have the appropriate amount, but we were never engaged or never really had a layoff plan, a major layoff plan, within government.”
Keating says relying on attrition is not the way for government to address spending concerns.
“To hope that attrition will be sufficient to deal with our massive debt and overspending is naive,” Keating said.
“We cannot lock ourselves into a situation where we rely solely on attrition to see us out of this financial crisis. We must retain the ability to manage the public sector, and we should not be providing a no-layoff guarantee.”
With files from Ashley Fitzpatrick