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The inexperience of Newfoundland and Labrador Finance Minister Loyola Sullivan continues to plague efforts to settle the province-wide strike by 20,000 workers. In an attempt to break the logjam on wages - in particular, the government’s demand for a wage freeze in the first two years of a contract - CUPE and NAPE tabled a new offer last night which included a signing bonus in year one and a COLA (cost of living allowance) in the latter part of year two.

Instead of making a counter-offer on this new proposal, the rookie finance minister said talks were now off. Union negotiators were puzzled by the move, and had expressed their desire to hear the government’s counter-offer.

Curiously, Premier Danny Williams has been absent from the bargaining table over the past several days. Speculation is rife about whether or not the millionaire premier is even in the province, as the strike by 20,000 workers enters day 19.

Back on January 5, Williams dropped a bombshell by announcing his plan for across the board wage freezes for all public sector workers. The very next day he hopped on a plane for a vacation in Barbados.