Contract talks between government, CUPE at an 'impasse' says union rep

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Province reaches framework for tentative deal with CUPE members

Finance Minister Tom Osborne said contract negotiations with CUPE are "temporarily paused" on Thursday, but Brian Farewell, a CUPE representative, says that's an understatement.

"I think that might be too cosmetic a word," he said.

The word he'd use?

"Impasse. I think it's an impasse."

During Thursday's question period in the House of Assembly, Osborne said the primary reason for the pause was the wording in a no-layoff clause included in the collective agreement between CUPE and the government.

"We want to ensure that the no-layoff clause does not extend into future contracts," he said, noting that government received this assurance from NAPE.

But Farewell said the government is looking for more than that.

Farewell said the government wants to add a sidebar to the agreement, which "is not solely confined to the no-layoffs [clause]. It encompasses the entire collective agreement."

"It actually undermines the entire collective agreement. It's a non-starter for us."

Farewell said CUPE accepted the no-layoff clause "exactly how it was" when it was first proposed and have given government confirmation that "the no-layoffs will terminate as of March 31, 2020."

"In order to make this work, we actually gave the minister and his committee additional language that we would accept as a sidebar to confirm it again," he said.

Farewell said talks ended around dinnertime Wednesday night and that he sent an email to Osborne on Thursday morning saying CUPE would resume negotiations "immediately" if government were to "revisit the language" of the proposed sidebar.

He said he will not comment on the contents of the sidebar because he feels the responsibility to do so, and to explain the reason behind it, falls to Osborne.

"This is his doing," he said.

CBC News requested a further reply from Osborne on Thursday evening, but has not gotten a response as of publishing time.