Message from our President

Provincial Labour Forum Update

On January 23rd I attended the Labour Forum with Premier Gallant, Health Minister, Victor Boudreau, and Minister of Human Resources, Denis Landry along with all public sector Unions attending.

What I am about to share with you is a snap shot of what was said and what is to be expected in the months to come and the Pre-budget meetings happening in the next three weeks.

The agenda for this meeting was as follows;

1. Opening Remarks
2. Economic and Fiscal Update
3. Strategic Program Review
4. Questions and Discussions
5. Closing Remarks

Minister Landry opened the meeting and then turned the mic over to the premier.

Premier Gallant opened by welcoming everyone and thanking all public servants for the jobs they do and thanked us for the jobs we do on behalf of the membership.  He then went on to speak about the challenges we face in NB and the hard decisions that will have to be made to sustain NB.  He stated GNB will make decisions to get NB in a better fiscal state.  His exact words was, "to get their financial house in order".  
He stated cutting budgets across the broad is not necessarily the right decision.  GNB wants to get away from this approach by having a strategic approach, which is where this strategic review comes from.   He stated no decisions have been made yet; no plan to cut civil servants and programs.  But he then went on to say there had to be efficiencies found in the system; they need to look at infrastructure; they need to deliver programs more efficient.  All program will be examined; they will look with in government departments as well for efficiencies.  They want to work with us; however we won't agree all the time.  GNB wants to work with those on the front line as they are the specialist knowing where to save money.   He asked for patience while they work through this process and again thanked everyone for attending.  

Then we were shown a power point presentation regard the Economic and Fiscal Update of NB.  

After the presentation we then heard from Minister Boudreau; a wide scope of the plan.
They want a balanced budget, they need to look at reductions, revenue, monetization, smaller innovations within government, restructure of departments in parts of civil servants; Part ii, School Dist., Part iii Health Network as well as Part iv Crown Corporations.  They need to have increased returns.  They want all regions with appropriate services.  They want to align with these three priorities, jobs, finances and families.  
He stated they will eliminate and reduce if not needed.  He spoke to the 14 pre-budget meetings and the format of these meetings.  He asked for suggestions to achieve results.  
Once the pre-budget meetings are completed there will be a report from government which will be made public to show what suggestions the public has brought to the table.  Then there will be a conference/summit in the spring of 2015 to set out the plan for GNB to consider and be presented to caucus and then implemented by government.  
He stated there will be nothing in this budget year; they need time to examine all department and programs, which will take 12 to 18 months, but in the second budget year, 2016, the government will announce and implemented changes.  

There was also comments made regarding the bargaining process; they want bargaining to move forward in a timely manner.  They will be announcing a new plan for bargaining in the near future (No indication as to what was given).

The floor was then opened for remarks from Unions.  Danny Leger spoke on behalf of all CUPE groups.  Danny touched on several areas of concern for the CUPE.
Bargaining comments--4 point mandate; Free Collective Bargaining will be our position.
Selling off crown corporations is not a good thing; the revenue from liqueur sales is what provides funds to have public services, health care, road maintenance etc.  
Job creation is required, casuals need job security.
The Civil Servant Act needs to be completely overhauled.
Taxes/corporate tax/corporate welfare.
Consulting firms being used costs huge dollars when we have educated managers in the systems who are educated to do these types of reports.  If they can't, why do we have managers who can't do their jobs.
Administration very top heavy in all sectors.
Public Service verses private services-the negative impact on NB'ers to have private services; the rich get the service and the poor still use public service.  Two tier.
Keeping our natural resources in NB instead of selling outside province.  Mine our own minerals, wood transported to Maine etc. Why are they not processed in NB?
Concerns were raised over the public meetings being called so fast leaving little time to prepare but CUPE would be presenting a brief to government as well as attending these meetings.

The minister did react to a few things Danny stated; for example they haven't used any consulting firms, but they have hired a retired federal employee to complete the Strategic Program Review at the cost of $60 000.00; which he felt was not much.  He again stated there will be hard decisions made and hopefully we can work together to give suggestions.

Other groups gave comments as well, NBNU, NBU, NB Federation of Labour to mention a few.
Everyone had the same idea; Public service had to remain; front line employees have to be consulted as they are the experts in the service and know where savings can be found.
There needs to be a health care restructure was also stated and this group would be prepared to have open dialogue and be part of the process.

Minister Boudreau's comments after was, there are 22 hospitals in NB for a population of less and 700,000; do we need 22 hospitals?  The need to look at what is the best model; centers of excellence verses community health centers.  Looking at nursing home beds; could hospitals be converted to nursing homes?  
He made comments regarding the average wages in NB was $50,000.00 per year and the attendance management; use of sick time and savings.  
He made reference to the wage bills varying across department to department; is there savings there?  
There is 4-5 million dollars to be cut and it will be challenging to find it.

There were comments made from union members about what he had just stated; all positive in favor of the membership.

The meeting ended at 3pm.

NOW; having given you the details of the meeting there are a number of things which we have to be "very" aware of.

No decisions made yet comment.
I fully believe the decisions on health care have been made; made by the previous government and will be carried out by this government.  I believe they know exactly what they will do; which hospitals will close/convert to health centers/convert to nursing homes.
When the Minister stated 22 hospitals for the population of NB; do we need that many, tells me they have been comparing our numbers to other provinces of the same size.  

It's obvious to me based on what was said, reading between the lines and what was not said, health care and education will be hammered in this strategic review.  

To wrap up, we walked away with a lot of questions; concerns as to what was not said.

In Solidarity

Norma Robinson,
President NBCHU CUPE Local 1252