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No-layoff clauses in N.L. union agreements have end date

Outside of the House of Assembly Monday, Tom Osborne takes questions from reporters about paying for the plan to get severance liability off the province’s books.
Finance Minister Tom Osborne - Ashley Fitzpatrick

The continuing dispute between Finance Minister Tom Osborne and CUPE head negotiator Brian Farewell has revealed that a controversial no-layoff clause will come to an end in all public-sector collective agreements.

The current deadlock has to do with two different sidebar letters proposed by either side.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has proposed the following when it comes to the no-layoff clause: “… the parties agree that this document will not roll over into a subsequent collective agreement…”

The government has proposed: “… the parties agree that any provision in the collective agreements … do not automatically roll over into subsequent collective agreements…”

According to Farewell, CUPE is fine with the no-layoff clause finishing with the next contract, but he is concerned that the language the government has introduced will mean everything agreed to will be off the table for the next round of negotiations.

“That means when the contract comes up, we’ll be starting from scratch with every article, in the worst-case scenario. We’re not going there,” said Farewell.

“They will have an opportunity based on this language, that when we go into bargaining, to say sick leave doesn’t roll over, so we’re starting from scratch. We can’t go there.”

Osborne maintains that the language put to CUPE is the same agreed to previously by NAPE, which means the past controversies about the no-layoff clause raised by the St. John’s Board of Trade and the Newfoundland and Labrador Employers’ Council are essentially moot.

While the government can’t lay off workers covered under the agreements for budgetary purposes under the incoming collective agreements, the no-layoff clause is not a permanent fixture of public sector contracts from here on out.

“Those are the two sets of language in question. The language we’re asking CUPE to agree to is exactly — word for word — the language we’ve asked NAPE to agree to,” said Osborne.

“We wish to remain consistent in the language we have. We’re not asking any more or less than what NAPE has signed.”

Talks have been stalled for a week at this point. Osborne says his department intends to approach CUPE to get talks going again before the end of the week.

“I’m hopeful that we’ll get back to the table and resolve this issue. I don’t like to bargain in public, but I know Mr. Farewell said the other issues, he believes we can get through. I’m looking forward to a productive dialogue.”

david.maher@thetelegram.com

Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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