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CUPE and NAPE have told their members to go back to work, pre-empting the back to work legislation now being debated in the House of Assembly.

The unions had taken their picket lines down on Tuesday, April 27 as a day of mourning for the death of collective bargaining in Newfoundland and Labrador. Strikers started returning to their workplaces Tuesday night, and all will be back on the job by Wednesday morning.

The two unions also tabled a new offer to the Williams government, including an option which would see the two remaining concessions being sent to binding arbitration, if wages can be settled.

Both sides met briefly late Tuesday night, but no progress was made with government insisting on concessions to sick leave provisions. The following statement was issued by CUPE NL. President Wayne Lucas:

“Today, we are telling our members to go back to work before this draconian legislation is passed and to do so with their heads held high. CUPE and NAPE members have carried out the largest strike in our provinces history with not a single arrest, not a single incident of physical violence. Through their courage and determination, they have shown the people of this great province what it means to stand up for what you believe in. They have shown all of Canada that workers rights are not something that can simply be trampled on.

Danny Williams will now pay the ultimate political price for attempting to do so. Our inept premier and finance minister couldnt play by the rules, so they changed the rules. In doing so, he and his caucus have thumbed their noses at the provinces own laws the Public Service Collective Bargaining Act.

It would appear that for this government some laws can be set aside when they feel its convenient. By denying us the right to proceed to binding arbitration as set out in provincial law they have violated every principle imaginable. In this regard, our lawyers are now in the process of exploring the legal avenues open to us, be they in civil law or otherwise. The 20,000 CUPE and NAPE members who exercised their legal right to strike over the last 27 days have learned a hard lesson - you cannot deal with the devil!

In contrast to our peaceful and democratic right to strike, Danny Williams and Loyola Sullivan have connived, twisted the truth, mislead the public, and used every dirty trick in the book to get what they wanted right from the start of this process and that was to strip our contracts and attack the rights of working people. This strike was not about money. It was about concessions. And I have a message for the Tory MHAs, all of whom have sat by silently in this dispute you should be ashamed of yourselves. You were elected by your constituents to show leadership, not to hide behind a tyrant like scared little puppets.

My final message is to Danny Williams himself. In your short time in office youve been behaving as if the province is just another one of your private companies, with your my way or the highway attitude. I have news for you Danny, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador doesnt belong to you, it belongs to the people! This historic strike by CUPE and NAPE members has exposed the real Danny Williams, the cut-throat Danny Williams. The proud and fair-minded people of this province will not forget how you have conducted yourself.”