NDP House Leader Lorraine Michael (MHA, St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi) says government’s recent actions around labour negotiations are reminiscent of those taken by employers in some of the bitterest labour disputes ever seen in this province. Today in the House of Assembly, Michael tried to make sense of the thinking that went into last week’s announcement by the Finance Minister that government is seeking conciliation, and a news conference in which the minister listed off existing contract benefits, presumably with an eye to inciting public feeling against unionized government workers.
“The Minister of Finance’s aggressive public sector bargaining move last week recalled the belligerent employer tactics that led to long, bitter labour disputes at Voisey’s Bay and St. John’s International Airport,” Michael said in Question Period.
“I ask the Minister, why did you choose the very same high-priced collective bargaining consultant, McInnes Cooper, who represented employers in both those disputes? How much to date has government paid for this firm’s advice?”
Michael is also concerned that government’s unusual move of going to conciliation after a short period at the negotiating table will mean an unusual amount of work for the non-bargaining government employees who would provide support for the conciliation.
“Government’s decision to bypass normal collective bargaining and send several sets of public sector negotiations to conciliation will place a heavy workload on conciliation staff at the Labour Relations Agency,” she said.
“Do the announced terminations of non-bargaining unit positions include a reduction in the number of staff of the Labour Relations Agency who provide conciliation services?”