Library workers slam EY report on library services

creynolds News Release

CUPE members are asking how a long overdue report and at great cost to taxpayers, fails to provide the one recommendation it was ostensibly commissioned to deliver – whether or not to close public libraries in 54 communities in Newfoundland and Labrador. There are no specific recommendations regarding the closures; rather, there are vague observations about establishing location parameters to decide which libraries should close or be amalgamated.

The provincial government finally released the long-awaited EY report on the review of library services late on Thursday afternoon, May 18, 2017.

“Our members are living with an axe hanging over their heads and have not been given a reprise. Instead, they are expected to wait longer to discover the fate of their employment,” says Dawn Lahey, president of CUPE Local 2329. “This is extremely upsetting to me and to my members. It is morally wrong to expect people to live with this kind of stress for such an extended period.”

The report also endorses further consultation, presumably to be conducted by EY consultants, and at the expense of taxpayers and the people who rely on public library services.

The report recommends consultations take place with the provincial government and municipalities, including Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador, with library funding to be shared by the province and municipalities.

“The union will request an audience with Minister Kirby to discuss this report and we hope we’ll be able to work with the minister and the public to strengthen our valued public library system,” says Lahey.

The report recognizes that the system is drastically underfunded and understaffed. It does not provide a place for the contribution of CUPE 2329 members in the decision-making process regarding policy initiatives or funding. It places greater weight on the contribution of “professional librarians” than on the hard work of the people who provide frontline services.

“There are some recommendations contained in the report we can agree with; however, there are few concrete recommendations arising from this exercise,” says Dawn Learning, CUPE national representative. “While the report contemplates library closures and if employees should retain their positions, it does not make any recommendations regarding which libraries should remain open.”

“There is a complete disregard for CUPE’s involvement in the library system and the provision of library services,” says CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador President Wayne Lucas. “Staffing recommendations include hiring a full-time head librarian and increasing the number of professional librarians, but there is no mention of hiring more frontline library workers. Increasing the number of professional librarian positions in the system will not enhance library services to library patrons.”

“Frontline workers are disappointed in the results of a process that did not include them and does not make any provision to include them in recommendations and policy revisions going forward, says Lahey. “Library workers deserve better – especially those workers who have been waiting for an extended period to find out if they will keep their jobs.”

Member Update – May 19, 2017

creynolds Bargaining Update

Good Morning CUPE Local 2329:

As you are all aware, the long-awaited Ernst and Young report on the review of library services was finally released yesterday afternoon. It is not surprising that Government chose late on a Thursday afternoon just prior to the first long weekend of the summer to release the report. People are busy preparing and looking forward to the upcoming summer kickoff and are not likely to pay too much attention to the findings of the report.

We are currently digesting its contents and will be issuing a press release next week, once we have had the opportunity to fully consider what it contains.

Our initial thoughts are mixed. The report recognizes that the system is underfunded and understaffed as a result of years of neglect by successive governments. Having said that, it does not provide a place for the contribution of CUPE Local 2329 members in the upcoming decision making regarding future funding and other policy initiatives. It also places greater weight on the contribution of “professional librarians” than on the hard work of you, the CUPE Local 2329 members who provide the frontline services that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador value so highly.

There are no specific recommendations regarding library closures; rather, there are vague observations about establishing location parameters to decide which libraries should close or be amalgamated. Those of you who have had to live with an axe hanging over your heads since the beginning of this saga have not been given a reprise. Instead, you are expected wait longer still to discover what the fate of your employment will be. This is extremely upsetting to us, your CUPE Local 2329 executive and leadership. It is also morally wrong to expect people to live with this kind of stress for such an extended period.

The executive will be meeting with Dawn Learning, our CUPE National representative on Tuesday night to discuss the report and formulate our official response to it. In the meantime, please read it, think about it, and send us your thoughts.

You can read the full report here: http://www.nlpl.ca/phocadownload/NLPL-Review-EY-Report-Final-May-5-2017.pdf

We look forward to hearing from you and to continuing the fight to preserve your employment and to provide quality library services to the people of the province.

In Solidarity,
CUPE Local 2329 Executive

Master Bargaining Update – May 15, 2017

creynolds Bargaining Update

Dear sisters and brothers:

Today, Finance Minister Cathy Bennett offered an update about bargaining with public sector unions, at a meeting of the Association of Chartered Professional Accountants of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Both NAPE and CUPE are currently in conciliation with the Labour Relations Board. It is not clear why the Minister would, once again, make comments about bargaining to the association and the media.

Also, the government wrote to NAPE last week stating that bargaining has stalled and that the conciliation process has ended. NAPE does not share this opinion.

In their letter, the government asked to bring all tables together to start a new process. NAPE is seeking clarification from the Labour Relations Board about the status of the conciliation process.

Our staff representatives are meeting with NAPE on this week to discuss the current status of bargaining and possible next steps.

CUPE has not been contacted by government about this new process. We are firmly committed to the conciliation process and to reaching a fair deal at the bargaining table.

We will continue to update members involved in master bargaining with the province.

In solidarity,

Dawn Learning, Ed White, Donna Ryan

CUPE national staff representatives

Corner Brook town hall calls for new health facilities to stay public

creynolds Article, Own Your NL, Privatization

Participants at a town hall meeting in Corner Brook, NL were clear their community needs a new hospital and expanded seniors’ care – but that it must stay public.

The forum focused on the Ball government’s proposal to privatize a long-term care facility and hospital in Corner Brook by using a public-private partnership (P3). Plans are in the early stages, and speakers emphasized it’s not too late to keep the facilities fully public.

“The people of Corner Brook have been advocating for a new hospital for well over 20 years. They need it, they deserve it, and they should have it,” said CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador President Wayne Lucas.

“The only question is: do we build a hospital and a long-term care home the way we’ve always done it, publicly? Or do we use a risky P3 that kicks the costs down the road 20 years or more?”

Natalie Mehra, coordinator of the Ontario Health Coalition, described the far-reaching impact of high-priced P3 hospitals, after nearly two decades of provincial Liberal privatization policies.

Ontario’s auditor general found the province’s P3 program, including many hospital projects, cost $8 billion more than publicly financed and delivered projects. “That money could have built 27 community hospitals,” said Mehra.

“You’re going to borrow the money either way. Why not borrow it the cheapest way, at the best interest rate?”

Expensive P3 deals put pressure on health care budgets, and “the impact on services is dramatic,” said Mehra. Ontario P3 hospitals have been scaled back in size, beds and staff are being cut once facilities open, and multiple community hospitals are being closed and replaced with one central, privatized, hospital.

P3 health facilities are bad public policy, said CUPE National President Mark Hancock. “From my home province of British Columbia, to the United Kingdom, everywhere you look, you’ll find overwhelming evidence to show P3s are failing the public interest. They’re over budget, and under-delivering for the people who paid for them – all of us,” he said.

“The bottom line is you don’t want to invite these consultants and multinational corporations into the centre of your health care system,” said Mehra. “They have an interest in maximizing their profits, and that will always take money away from the scope of services available – whether it’s for public health care, or public transportation, education or water.”

“Working together, CUPE members and residents of Corner Brook can protect seniors and patients and keep their facilities public,” said Mehra. “You can stop this, because it hasn’t started here.”

Lucas said CUPE plans to take the issue to the streets, to doorsteps in the community, and to the offices of MHAs. “We’re committed to have an army of activists out there. Corner Brook deserves no less than a brand-new hospital and great long-term care. We intend to push this government back.”

Marystown municipal workers to take strike vote May 4

creynolds News Release, Uncategorized

The members of CUPE Local 1896, Marystown municipal workers, will take a strike vote on Thursday, May 4, to send a message asking town council to return to the bargaining table to negotiate a fair contract. Members were upset to learn that their wages were negotiated in council chambers without the union’s bargaining team present, late last year.

After serving notice to bargain in September 2016, the union finally had the opportunity to begin negotiations with the employer in January 2017.

CUPE Local 1896 President Stacey Mallay says, “We wonder if the employer’s low wage offer, in the first year of the contract, is related to the amount of money spent on investigations into internal conflicts that recently occurred within council.”

“The members want a fair deal that’s negotiated at the bargaining table – not in council chambers,” says Ed White, CUPE National Representative.

CUPE Local 1896 represents approximately 20 members who work in positions including clerical staff, heavy equipment operators, mechanics, labourers and water treatment plant operators.

10 problems with P3s

creynolds Own Your NL, Privatization

Across Canada, some governments are promoting privatizing public infrastructure and services through public-private partnerships, also known as P3s.

In a P3 deal, private corporations make a profit from financing, operating and/or maintaining public infrastructure projects. Municipal or provincial governments, school boards or health authorities sign contracts with private corporations to design, build, operate and sometimes finance infrastructure and deliver services that were once public. These contracts can last 30 years or longer.

Until recently, Newfoundland and Labrador has proudly been a P3-free zone. Working with our allies, CUPE helped stop the St. John’s harbour cleanup from being privatized through a P3. And we’ve kept many other vital services public, because we know they keep our province strong.

P3s are privatization, pure and simple. There are many reasons public works best to build and maintain long-term care facilities, hospitals, water and wastewater treatment facilities, schools, transit systems, roads, bridges and other vital assets.

Here are 10: 

  1. P3s cost the public more

Private, for-profit corporations get involved with P3s to make a profit for their shareholders. Those profits are made charging more for the project (including financing costs), and/or from cutting the operating costs. Lawyer and consultant fees add even more to the P3 price tag.

In 2014, Ontario’s auditor general reviewed 74 P3 projects and found they cost $8 billion more than if they had been publicly financed and operated – that’s 30 per cent more than public projects would have cost, or about $1,600 per Ontario household. Fully $6.5 billion was due to higher costs of private borrowing.

Governments and other public sector bodies can borrow money to build infrastructure much more cheaply than the private sector. P3s are like using a credit card instead of a low-cost mortgage to build public facilities.

  1. The public still shoulders the risk

Even advocates of P3s admit they cost more than publicly-delivered projects. To sell the deals, advocates have developed complicated arguments and questionable calculations about risk transfer and efficiency to gloss over the fact their costs are higher.

P3 contracts include hefty additional charges for any risk that is transferred from the public to the private sector. Even then, private corporations can seek bankruptcy protection and walk away from contractual commitments. When this happens, governments must scramble to maintain public services, and taxpayers are stuck with the higher costs of private sector operation.

Provincial auditors general have found that the way government agencies promoting privatization analyze P3 projects is biased, and does not take into account the higher cost of private financing. In Ontario, the auditor found no evidence to back claims P3 projects shifted risk to corporations.

  1. P3s hurt workers

P3 contracts often involve outsourcing good public sector jobs to for-profit operators. This can involve all jobs or some types of jobs such as cleaning, maintenance or food preparation. Ultimately, the for-profit operator seeks to maximize profits by cutting corners and doing more work with fewer staff. Furthermore, the tight budgets that come with higher-cost P3s can also lead to deteriorating wages and working conditions. Finally, there are no guarantees that jobs will be protected over the life of a P3, even if there are initial promises of job security. As one example, nearly 400 jobs have been cut since the North Bay P3 hospital opened in 2011.

  1. P3s operate in secrecy

Privatization means details about financing and operations are hidden from the public. P3 contracts involve lengthy and complex negotiations behind closed doors. Unlike governments, private corporations are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. This means residents don’t have access to information about the environmental and economic actions of companies. Most so-called ‘Value for Money’ reports about P3s edit out important financial information about how that value was calculated. This means we can’t accurately assess the true costs of privatization.

  1. We lose public control and accountability

Private corporations answer to shareholders – not residents and elected officials. The mandate of shareholders is to ensure profitable and growing businesses. Our governments answer to the public. At best, P3s blur the lines of accountability and responsibility. Basic public services like health care, water and wastewater treatment should respond to the priorities of the people that rely on them, not the profit motives of shareholders.

  1. Multi-decade contracts limit flexibility and responsiveness

P3 contracts lock local governments into multi-decade deals with private companies. As technology improves and community needs change, P3 contracts tie the hands of municipalities, provincial governments, or school boards that want to adapt and evolve. Changes can only be made after re-opening contracts, and come at a high price. With trade deals like CETA coming into force, governments will find it difficult or impossible to end a P3 when it goes bad.

  1. Local businesses lose out to large corporations

Governments have always relied on private, home-grown, companies to design and build public infrastructure. P3 contracts price small and medium-sized companies out of the game. Only large corporations can provide the up-front financial backing the deals demand, and engage in complex P3 negotiations. This means local design and construction firms can’t bid on projects. It also means, in the long term, that many decisions about local services are being made in corporate head offices, not in communities.

  1. Money and jobs leave the community

Public services offer local residents good jobs in the community. These jobs provide opportunities to train and enhance the skills and experience of residents, and in turn strengthen the area’s resiliency. This is crucial in tough economic times. And projects in the hands of local governments rely on local private sector firms and expertise to design and build public infrastructure. P3s rely on external investment and expertise and often source materials from outside the community. Money that could be returned to the local economy and tax base goes elsewhere.

The ‘discipline’ of public-private partnerships is an illusion. P3 projects can claim to be “on time and on budget” only because the completion date gets set after the lengthy lead time – usually years – it takes to reach the contract stage for P3s. Budget goalposts shift to meet whatever the contract costs.

  1. P3s download costs to future generations

Governments tout the short-term financial benefits of P3s, but P3s are not a short-term project. We all end up paying for P3s down the road. Future generations that had no say in the decisions end up locked into paying the extra costs decades into the future, leaving less money for public services and other community priorities.

What provincial auditors have said about P3s – Fact Sheet

creynolds Fact Sheet, Own Your NL, Privatization

Over the years, provincial auditors across the country have questioned the financial rationale for using public-private partnerships (P3s) to build public infrastructure.

Provincial auditors are independent officers of legislative assemblies who review government finances and decision-making to ensure public funds are spent in an efficient and accountable manner.

A number of P3s have now been reviewed by provincial and federal auditors and the verdict is bad.

Auditors have found that P3s cost more than traditional public projects, use questionable methodology, lack accountability and do not transfer risk to the private sector.

Ontario

In her 2014 Report, Ontario’s Auditor General reviewed 74 P3 projects and concluded that they cost the province $8 billion more than if they had been procured publicly. The majority of this— $6.5 billion—was due to higher private-sector financing costs. She also questioned the main justification for using P3s–the assertion that they transferred risk to the private sector. The P3 projects used unrealistically high risk transfer, averaging about 50% of the capital costs.

The Auditor General concluded that “there is no empirical data supporting the key assumptions used by Infrastructure Ontario to assign costs to specific risks.”

In her follow-up audit of the P3 projects, the Auditor General noted that little to no progress had been made on a number of audit recommendations. Further work was required on:

  • Having adequate data to support the calculations of risk transferred to the private sector, and
  • Ensuring the risks that are supposed to be transferred to the private sector actually are.

The Auditor General also highlighted the $36.6 billion in long-term P3 liabilities and commitments that the present and future governments will face.

In 2008, Ontario’s previous auditor general determined that the William Osler Centre, a P3 hospital in Brampton, could have been built for $200 million less through traditional public financing. He also found that the cost of the public option was overstated by more than $600 million and that there was a high cost for advisors and consultants ($34 million).

British Columbia

In 2014, the Auditor General of British Columbia raised major concerns about the high cost of debt through P3 projects. She examined 16 different P3 projects in the province and found the government was paying nearly twice as much for borrowing through P3s as it would have if it had borrowed the money itself.

An earlier 2011 review of the Vancouver General Hospital Academic Ambulatory Care Centre (AACC), known as the Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Centre, identified the higher cost of private financing, probed the transfer of risk to the private sector and questioned whether P3s were in reality on time and on budget.

Quebec

In 2010, the provincial auditor of Quebec found that the McGill University Health Care Centre (MUHC) P3 cost more than the public option, and that the analysis used to compare the P3 model to a conventional public model was extremely faulty. Instead of the P3 model saving $33 million, the provincial auditor found that the public model would have saved $10 million. The auditor’s special report to the National Assembly also found that there was a cost overrun of more than $108 million, on top of the original price tag of $5.2 billion.

Not only that, a number of the key people involved in the McGill University hospital P3, such as Arthur Porter and the former CEO of SNC Lavalin, have been charged with corruption associated with this project.

Recently two researchers from Montreal calculated that the government of Quebec would save up to $4 billion if it bought back the two super hospitals from the P3 consortium.

Nova Scotia

In 2010, the Auditor General of Nova Scotia reported on his review of 39 P3 schools in that province. He cited numerous and significant problems with the administration of contracts, notably the absence of a child abuse registry and criminal records checks of sub-contractors. Many of the P3 companies subcontracted work to other companies without ensuring adequate safety checks.

The auditor concluded that “[t]he terms of service contracts are not adequate to ensure public interest is protected…The lack of these significant contract terms impairs the Department’s ability to hold the developers accountable and effectively manage the contracts.”

He also noted that risk was transferred back to government and developers were being paid twice for the service, resulting in a deficit for any local school board.

New Brunswick

In her 2012 report, the New Brunswick Auditor General found significant problems with the decision to build two P3 schools in Moncton and Rexton. She pointed to deficiencies in the value for money analysis used and reported that the decision to use a P3 had been made without any rationale. In fact, she found that the government spent $1.7 million more with a P3 than it would have using public procurement.

Problems were also found through an earlier 1998 audit of Evergreen P3 School and Wackenhut’s Miramichi Youth Facility.

The Department of Finance had claimed that the P3s would provide seven to 15 per cent savings on the design and construction, that capital financing to the private partner was very close to the government’s long term borrowing rate, and that major capital repair and replacement risk would be eliminated. None of these claims proved true.

The Auditor General concluded that the capital cost of the Evergreen School would have been $774,576 less had the province done the work itself and that the Youth Facility cost the Province $700,000 more because of higher financing costs through the private corporation Wackenhut.

Canada

In 1995, the Auditor General of Canada reviewed the Confederation Bridge P3 project, which is often listed as a success story by P3 proponents. The Auditor General had major concerns with the “complex financing” of the project and concluded that the bridge cost $45 million more than if the government had directly borrowed the money.

Saskatchewan

In a 2015 review of SaskBuilds, the provincial Crown corporation responsible for P3s, the Auditor General of Saskatchewan found that the corporation had valued the risk of public procurement to be six times higher than if it had used P3s. The Auditor General noted that benefits attributed to P3s could also occur in public sector procurement and urged the government to gain efficiencies under traditional procurement.

In 2010, the Ministry of Health signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Amicus Health Care Incorporated to build a 100-bed long term care facility in Saskatoon, without prior agreement from the health region. Although neither the government nor the provincial auditor called this arrangement a P3, it was by all definitions a P3: Amicus financed 100% of the capital costs and receives monthly capital and operating lease payments from the province over seven years.

The Provincial Auditor criticized the absence of a cost benefit analysis:

The proposed daily capital rate is higher than other affiliates [nursing homes] because of Amicus borrowing 100% of the capital required for construction. We were unable to obtain the basis for calculating this rate for Amicus. As well, neither the [Ministry of] Health nor Saskatoon [Health Region] could provide us any written analysis to support that funding long-term beds in this new way is cost effective for the Province.

The Auditor also noted that once the construction was completed, the Saskatoon Health Region “assumes the risk over debt repayment and the operation of the new facility.”

Dr. John Loxley also reviewed what little information was disclosed about the Amicus deal and concluded that private financing would cost $11 to $20 million more than if the province had built the facility.

CUPE Research – April 2017

 

Town hall meeting to discuss financing of new Corner Brook health care facilities

creynolds News Release, Uncategorized

The Ball Government is about to build two health care facilities in Corner Brook using public-private partnerships (P3s), even though auditor generals, researchers and journalists across Canada continue to report on P3 failures and the waste of taxpayers’ money.

Will these P3 deals be accountable, locally-controlled or a wise investment of tax dollars? Why would any provincial government rely on P3s with higher-cost private financing?

Let’s talk about it. Please join us on Monday evening for a public town hall.

WHAT: Town hall meeting to discuss financing of new health care facilities. The event, hosted by CUPE Newfoundland Labrador, will include a presentation followed by questions and answers.

WHO: Special presentation by guest speaker Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition; as well as Mark Hancock, CUPE national president.

WHERE: Greenwood Inn & Suites, 48 West Street, Corner Brook. See Google map.

WHEN: Monday, May 1, from 7 to 9 p.m.

Some of the issues with P3s that will be discussed include: higher-cost private financing that can double the cost of infrastructure projects; higher user fees and increased access to services; as well as “off book debts” now that will mean less available funding in future years.

Follow Saskatchewan lead – restore all funding and save libraries: CUPE

creynolds Crossroads, News Release

On Monday April 24, Saskatchewan Education Minister Don Morgan announced that the provincial government would be completely restoring the $4.8 million in funding cuts to Saskatchewan’s libraries.

Don Morgan was quoted by CBC as saying, “We’ve heard from people pretty clearly that they value the library in its present form. It’s important for them not just to have the electronic capability, but they also want to have the physical space to go to.” Morgan also told reporters, “As I’ve indicated earlier, we’re not afraid to admit we made a mistake on something.”

CUPE is calling on Premier Ball and Minister Bennet to follow the lead of the Saskatchewan Provincial Government and admit that the funding reduction and closure of 54 libraries as a result of the 2016 budget was also a mistake, immediately restore funding to the province’s libraries and reinvest in the library system for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Ball government announced on April 27, 2016 that over half of the province’s libraries would be closing. On June 30, 2016, the decision was suspended and review of the library system by Ernst and Young was announced.

CUPE Local 2329 President Dawn Lahey says, “This provincial government has also heard loudly and clearly from the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that our libraries are valued; indeed, they are cherished. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians deserve a vibrant library system which meets their needs. They deserve to at least maintain their current level of service.”

President of CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador Wayne Lucas says, “I cannot believe that this government has still not dealt with this issue, so many months after the cuts were announced. It is clear what the people have said, and it is high time that the Ball Government stand up and admit that they, too, made a mistake.”

Members of CUPE Local 2329 have been waiting since April 2016 to find out whether they will continue to have a job. Lahey also says, “It is high time that these women are told what is going to become of their employment. It has been extremely difficult to have this axe hanging over their heads for all this time; they deserve to know that the Government is going to listen to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and commit to our cherished library system.”

Dwight Ball’s Crossroads – A game of budgets and cuts for Newfoundland and Labrador

creynolds Collective Bargaining, News Release

A new ad campaign by public service workers in Newfoundland and Labrador will be shown on TV screens across the province beginning today. CUPE’s public services workers launched the ad to voice their concerns about the Ball Government’s strategy for job growth (or lack thereof) and threats the Province is making to freeze wages and slash benefits.

Watch the television ad during NTV Evening News, NTV First Edition, as well as CBC News at 6 and 6:30 p.m. You can also watch it on our website at nl.cupe.ca/crossroads.

In the provincial budget released on April 6, the Minister of Finance announced that, “Our government will propose legislative changes to implement a wage freeze for management and all non-union employees for the current fiscal year. This includes core government and agencies, boards and commissions.”

The threat of job layoffs and a wage freeze for public service workers, both unionized and non-unionized, is causing undue stress on families and communities.

With inflation currently at 4.1% and the average income in the province of approximately $53,000, a wage freeze could cost workers almost $2,200 per year. Collective agreements with the province typically cover a four-year period.

These attacks come at a time when the provincial unemployment rate is expected to increase from 13% to 17% over the next three years, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

Families in Newfoundland and Labrador are already struggling to make ends meet. Layoffs, wage freezes, cuts to public services, and attacks on unions are only making things worse. During a time of economic downturn, lower and middle income families need public services more than ever.

“All economic indicators are still pointing to challenging times for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in terms of job certainty, the unemployment crisis, being able to pay the bills, quality of life, and the security needed to build a future here,” says CUPE NL President Wayne Lucas.

CUPE believes the Ball Government should recognize the public sector as a driver of economic growth. There are steps the Province can take in the collective bargaining process, and in future budgets, that put people first, protect the public services we need, create good jobs and a stronger economy.

Tell the Ball Government to protect the good jobs and wages we need to stabilize our economy.

Life is not a game for people in Newfoundland and Labrador.