New NAPE campaign aims to promote importance of public sector heading into election

·4 min read
New NAPE campaign aims to promote importance of public sector heading into election
John Pike/CBC
John Pike/CBC

A union that represents more than 30,000 public sector employees in Newfoundland and Labrador is getting involved in the provincial election campaign with a new advertising campaign supporting front-line workers.

The campaign launched by NAPE — the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees — titled "We Call Them Heroes," highlights front-line workers, including paramedics and school janitors, doing their jobs through the COVID-19 pandemic.

NAPE president Jerry Earle said it's a coincidence that the ads launched during an election campaign, but he sees it as an opportunity to highlight the importance of the work being done.

"This is front-line workers, not just NAPE members, that have went to work since the beginning of this pandemic, throughout this pandemic," Earle said Monday. "We were calling them heroes all along. They are true heroes.… We want to applaud them and also draw attention to some groups that are looking at them now for possible adverse effects."

With the threat of deep cuts in the public sector and Liberal Leader Andrew Furey's economic recovery report hanging over the election, Earle said he and the union are prepared to fight for their members if a target is put on their backs.

"History has proven itself that when this province had difficult times, front-line workers have always been just a number on a spreadsheet," he said. "Front-line workers are not the problem. Front-line workers have always contributed to Newfoundland and Labrador, especially during the last year."

Earle wouldn't say how much the ad campaign has cost, but did say "significant resources" have gone into the project.

WATCH| The CBC's Terry Roberts speaks with NAPE president Jerry Earle:

He said NAPE is prepared to meet with the provincial government to express their concerns over cuts in the public sector but hopes discussions can be made openly and not in "a back room," alluding to closed-doors discussions by the premier's economic recovery team, headed by Moya Greene.

"There are ways that we're prepared to sit down and have discussions, but those decisions cannot be made in the back rooms by such people as Moya Greene. We know her track record, it's quite clear," he said.

Even comments of the premier when he said sometimes you have to cut off a limb, our members feel like that limb. - Jerry Earle

Earle said the union has written the major political parties in the province about their support for the public sector. He said one party has gotten back to him, and he hopes to share the results with members before the election ends.

He said morale between members has dropped considerably as a result of the pandemic and the prospect of job cuts.

"When they hear Moya Greene's comments … and unfortunately even comments of the premier when he said sometimes you have to cut off a limb, our members feel like that limb. They're not expendable."

Sherry Vivian/CBC
Sherry Vivian/CBC

NDP Leader Alison Coffin said she believes a robust public service can help attract people into the province and she doesn't see cuts as a viable option.

"We have to make good choices, and our good choices are going to be [to] invest in a robust public service that makes it the right place to start a business, to start a family.… Those supports are still necessary," she said Monday. "I strongly believe that we have to invest in a robust public service, and cutting will not get us to prosperity."

Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie echoed those comments, saying there has to be a better way to manage the public service. He said his party would focus on early retirement incentives in an effort to downsize the public sector.

While the Liberal Party said no one was unavailable to comment Monday, leader Andrew Furey has said there will be no mass layoffs and that the economic recovery team's report will be fully debated.

Earle said NAPE is prepared to keep the new campaign going, sending a message to whichever party forms the next government.

"If you want to take on front-line members, we're prepared to step up and support them."

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