ST. JOHNS Strike action began this morning for the provinces 19,000 public sector workers after negotiations that went on into the early morning hours failed to produce an acceptable deal.
Wayne Lucas, provincial leader of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) said the unions 2700 members who work for housing, public libraries and health care will begin setting up picket lines this morning.
We went into these negotiations with our sister union, NAPE, on the agreement that the package on the table had to be acceptable to both unions, Lucas explained. Unfortunately, the deal that was delivered was unable to satisfy all of the requirements of both unions.
One of the main failings from CUPEs point of view, said Lucas, was that the offer on the table to improve the public sector pension plan would be withdrawn if the two unions decided to vote their separate ways.
The public sector pension plan is too important to our members to let it fall into bankruptcy, he said. We were very close to reaching an agreement from the government to eliminate the unfunded liability and introduce indexing. Weve worked too hard and too long to walk away from that now.
Lucas said that while the governments wage offer had improved it was still substantially below what the union had been mandated by the membership to accept. That and the potential loss of pension improvements left the bargaining unit with no choice but to honour the April 1st strike deadline.
After years of having their wages frozen public sector workers were rightfully hoping these negotiations would win back for them some of what they had lost,
Lucas said that while talks have broken off and the picket lines have been drawn, he is not discounting the possibility that the two sides will be called back to the bargaining table.
It is not our desire to disrupt services for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, he said. We sincerely hope that the government will see its way to reopen these discussions so that the great progress the bargaining committees have achieved to date will not be tossed aside.
For more information please call Wayne Lucas at (709) 727-2509 (cell).