Facing down the prospect of a $1.6 billion deficit next year, the provincial government announced a blanket hiring freeze across the public service.
In an e-mail sent to all government employees, Robert Thompson, clerk of the executive council, announced that “effective immediately, routine departmental recruitment activities have been temporarily suspended until further notice.”
Thompson said that departments will only be allowed to staff vacant positions “if it is absolutely necessary.”
The e-mail also made a few points to reassure government workers, saying that the government wants to keep the public service as a “vibrant environment to enjoy progressive, exciting careers” even as new hiring is frozen.
“Through this process there will be difficult decisions,” Thompson wrote. “However, as government considers its next steps, please be assured that we are committed to ensuring the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador remains home to a highly-professional and highly-qualified public service.”
Within minutes, CUPE representative Wayne Lucas was reacting, saying that the government is “deliberately provoking” unions, in the midst of contract negotiations.
“I think it's extremely provocative,” Lucas said. “We're into bargaining; the timing couldn't be worse.”
Lucas said that he constantly hears that union leadership are just interested in membership numbers and union dues, but actually, he’s really focused on the quality of services for citizens.
“We're concerned about the strong public services that we provide,” he said. “If you're not going to hire a janitor in the school, as an example, that concerns me. If you're to going to hire somebody who answers the phone at Newfoundland and labrador Housing, that concerns me.”