A stunning provincial poll released yesterday in St. Johns has found 75 per cent popular support across Newfoundland and Labrador for a public sector strike against the confrontational style of millionaire premier Danny Williams.
The poll, conducted by Vision Research on March 27th and 28th, found that among respondents with a decided opinion, 75 per cent felt the unions were working harder to prevent a public sector strike, while only 25 per cent felt Premier Williams was working harder to do so.
The majority of respondents believe that if there is a strike on April 1st, the Williams government will be to blame for it. 64 per cent of respondents suggested that Premier Williams is responsible should a strike occur on April 1st, while only 36 per cent would blame the public sector unions. The poll interviewed 405 people across the province.
Premier Williams may soon regret his combative approach to governing the province in a so-called business-like way. Just six months into his mandate, Williams has set the stage for a massive provincial strike of 20,000 public sector workers. The public sector is of crucial importance in this province, where the unionization rate stands at 40 per cent.
Bargaining broke down, then re-started again, this past weekend. The strike deadline is 12:01 am Thursday, April 1st.
The provincial government releases its budget tomorrow, amidst advance notice of up to 1,000 public sector job cuts.
CUPE represents about 3,500 affected workers in 16 locals at hospitals, school boards, nursing homes, libraries, in public housing and other institutions.
CUPE has worked extremely closely with NAPE the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public Employees, representing over 16,000 provincial government employees working in sectors such as jails, school boards, social service agencies and hospitals. The two unions have collaborated on strike preparations and communications, and are supporting each other at the bargaining table.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers Association has joined CUPE and NAPE in a joint communications campaign criticizing Williams proposed wage freezes and mobilizing public opposition to the millionaire premiers agenda.
The main issues include an imposed two-year wage freeze, an attack on public sector pensions and a series of concessions from reduced sick leave to severance pay restrictions and more.
The groundwork has been laid for a massive show of solidarity and strength against the gutting of public services in the province.
Three years ago, CUPE and NAPE went on strike for five days and basically shut down the province. This time around, school boards could well be involved at the same time, bringing life in the province to a virtual standstill.