CUPE and Government of Newfoundland and Labrador representatives discuss P3 contracts for infrastructure

creynolds issues, News Release, Own Your NL, Privatization

CUPE Newfoundland Labrador President Wayne Lucas and CUPE Senior Economist Toby Sanger met with the Honourable Kathy Bennett, Minister of Finance, and the Honourable Al Hawkins, Minister of Transportation and Works, on March 28 to discuss the dangers of using private-public partnerships (P3s) to build infrastructure.

CUPE firmly believes that P3s are not in the best interest of workers, our families or our communities. On the contrary, we can count on public financing to be accountable, transparent, locally-controlled and a wise investment of tax dollars.

“We’re glad that government has agreed – as a result of resistance by CUPE, other unions and the public – to ensure that workers providing health care services will continue to be public employees and excluded from P3 contracts,” says Lucas. “However, we still don’t have anything in writing that says our members’ jobs and the quality of our public services will be protected.”

At the meeting on Tuesday, CUPE was encouraged that government representatives were receptive to concerns the union expressed about P3s. Both parties agreed there is a need for objective project planning and analysis on infrastructure projects.

The union requested that the department disclose all analysis to the public. Finance and Transportation and Works representatives made a commitment to publicly release the fully detailed business case, with all the appendices and numbers, in the fall when they are ready to award the contract.

Some of the union’s concerns that were discussed include:

  • Higher-cost private finance can double the cost of infrastructure projects.
  • Private finance will likely lead to higher user fees, which will increase inequality.
  • P3 projects involve far higher transaction costs — fees paid to lawyers, financial advisors, accounting firms and other consultants — to develop the deals.
  • Much of this extra money will likely flow out of the province, to large companies and investment funds.

“Private financing comes at a much higher cost, including off book debts, which will ultimately mean that less public funding will be available for public services, or for public infrastructure investments, in future years,” says Sanger.

So why would the Ball Government rely on P3s with higher-cost private financing?

There’s a desire by many politicians to keep borrowing costs off their books, at least in the short term. There is also pressure from the P3 and finance industry which want to gain higher rates of return from investing in public infrastructure or privatized public assets.

“Numerous auditors’ reports have found that P3s cost more, including the Ontario Auditor General who found that public sector financing and delivery for 74 projects would have saved the province $8 billion,” says Sanger. “P3 projects in the UK have resulted in £300 billion in debt (a half trillion Canadian dollars), equivalent to more than $25,000 per family. They also lead to cuts in public health services to pay for the higher financing costs.”

Lucas points out, “During the meeting we were not provided with evidence of any P3 deals throughout the country that were in the best interest of citizens.”

“If Government goes down the risky path of P3 deals, taxpayers in Newfoundland Labrador should be prepared for more debt and less reliable services.”

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Workers launch radio ad defending good jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador

creynolds Collective Bargaining, News Release

A new ad campaign by public service workers in Newfoundland and Labrador hit the airwaves this weekend, on radio stations across the province. 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.

“Finance Minister Cathy Bennett was not forthcoming, at her news conference in early March, about the extent of the concessions the Province is seeking from public service workers,” says CUPE National Representative Brian Farewell. “The Province is proposing to strip away benefits that have been negotiated through decades of collective bargaining – and many times at the expense of salary increases. Concessions they are asking for include wages, sick leave and group insurance.”

These attacks come at a time when the provincial unemployment rate is expected to increase from 13% to 17% by 2020, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

“Layoffs, wage freezes, cuts to public services, and attacks on unions are only making things worse,” 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 the next budget – that put people first, protect the public services we need, create good jobs and a stronger economy.

CUPE Newfoundland Labrador represents approximately 6,000 public service workers in health care, education, treasury, public housing, provincial libraries, university, transition and group homes, child care and much more.

Listen to the radio ad



About Us

creynolds About Us

CUPE Newfoundland and Labrador proudly represents more than 6,300 working women and men 60 locals. The union represents workers in health care, education, public housing, provincial libraries, municipalities, university, child care, recycling, social services and much more.

As a strong and democratic union, CUPE is committed to improving the quality of life for workers in Newfoundland and Labrador. Women and men working together to form local unions built CUPE. They did so to have a stronger voice – a collective voice – in their workplace and in society as a whole.

Each year, delegates from locals across the province come together for our Division Convention. Delegates elect our executive board and vote on resolutions to democratically set the priorities and direction of the union, guide the work of leaders and staff in the interests of every CUPE NL member.

Every two years, delegates from locals across the county attend our National Convention. Delegates elect our national officers and executive board, and vote on resolutions and policy papers.

CUPE NL is a division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Canada’s largest union. Here is a quick look at CUPE’s membership:

  • 700,000 members across the country
  • More than 60 per cent of our members are women
  • More than 70 per cent of CUPE’s 3,946 collective agreements are with locals of 100 members or less
  • CUPE has more than 2,363 locals and chartered organizations across the country, ranging in size from 20 to 20,000 members
  • CUPE membership’s collective payroll is over $21.8 billion

CUPE is a founding union of the Canadian Labour Congress, the umbrella organization for the Canadian labour movement.  With dozens of affiliated Canadian and International unions, as well as provincial federations of labour and regional labour councils, the CLC represents the interests of more than three million workers in every imaginable occupation from coast to coast to coast.

Globally, CUPE is a proud and active affiliate of Public Service International. As the global federation of public sector unions, PSI represents 650 affiliated trade unions in 148 countries and territories worldwide, uniting more than 20 million public sector workers.


Private financing wrong direction for Canadian infrastructure bank

creynolds Article, Economy, issues, Own Your NL, Privatization, Report

A report written by CUPE Economist Toby Sanger warns that private financing of the proposed Canada Infrastructure Bank could double the cost of infrastructure projects, and shows how the bank can instead provide low-cost, public financing for much-needed projects.

The study was published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in advance of the federal budget, where more details of the proposed bank are expected to be unveiled.

Sanger outlines the dramatic shift from Liberal election promises of a bank with low-cost financing to the current plan, which focuses on higher-priced private borrowing. The shift will increase pressure to privatize key infrastructure, and will mean less public funding is available to deliver public services and infrastructure.

“No homeowner in their right mind would commit to a loan or mortgage at a rate of 7 per cent or more when they can borrow at 2.5 per cent — especially when it involves locking in over 10, 20 or 30 years, and paying close to twice as much in total costs over the life of the project,” writes Sanger. “So why would the federal government make the Canada Infrastructure Bank rely on higher-cost private finance?”

The study outlines how the federal government could establish a Canadian infrastructure bank that works in the public interest by providing low-cost financing for public infrastructure.

Download a printable copy of the report: Creating a Canadian infrastructure bank in the public interest

A game of budgets and cuts

creynolds Collective Bargaining, Crossroads

A new ad campaign by public service workers in Newfoundland and Labrador will be shown on TV screens across the province starting today. CUPE’s public services workers launched the ad to voice their concerns about the Ball Government’s failure to protect good jobs, as well as the impact on our economy and our public services.

Watch the television ad during CBC News at 6 and 6:30 pm, as well as NTV Evening News and NTV First Edition.

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 (unionized and non-unionized) in the province of approximately $53,000, a wage freeze would 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.

How much will you lose if a wage freeze is implemented?

This chart can be used to estimate how much you will lose if your wages remain the same and inflation is 4.1% for Newfoundland and Labrador. *

Annual Wages One Year Two Years Three Years Four Years
20000 824 1640 2460 3296
25000 1030 2060 3090 4120
30000 1236 2472 3708 4944
35000 1442 2884 4326 5768
40000 1648 3296 4944 6592
45000 1854 3708 5562 7416
50000 2060 4120 6180 8240
55000 2266 4532 6798 9064
60000 2472 4944 7416 9888
65000 2678 5356 8034 10712
70000 2884 5768 8652 11536
75000 3090 6180 9270 12360
80000 3296 6592 9888 13184

Source: Statistics Canada, Consumer Price Index, by province (monthly)

When private goes public – community wins

creynolds Article, Own Your NL, Privatization

Five years ago, the town of Conception Bay South, Newfoundland and Labrador, was facing problems with its privatized solid waste collection. Complaints were on the rise, and costs were headed in the same direction. In 2011, the town council voted to bring the service in house, ending 30 years of contracting-out.

The CUPE local representing the town’s workers had worked tirelessly over the years to convince management and council that public worked best, first bringing bulk garbage pickup back in house, and building a solid case to end privatization once and for all. Now, at the end of a successful five-year in-house trial period, the service is staying public. The town-run service has also expanded to include curbside recycling pickup.

“It’s a win-win for everyone,” says CUPE 3034 president Terri-Lynn Cooper. In a recent survey of town residents, garbage collection topped a list of what residents liked about their community, with nearly 82 per cent of people choosing the service first.

Increased service quality is a point of pride for the solid waste workers, members of CUPE 3034. In-house operation is also helping the solid waste crew improve their safety on the job. And town officials are also seeing the benefits of in-house control when it comes to accountability, flexibility and cost savings. The average yearly savings since bringing services in house are “significant,” says the town’s Chief Administrative Officer Dan Noseworthy, clocking in at about $230,000 a year to total $1.15 million over five years.

With 25,000 residents, Conception Bay South is the province’s second-largest – and fastest-growing – community. The town’s in-house crew works the streets four days a week in distinctive white garbage trucks, picking up trash from about 10,000 homes.

Some households use wooden garbage boxes, which can be a health and safety hazard. The boxes aren’t always at the roadside, they attract rodents and wasps, and can have protruding screws. As direct employees of the town, the solid waste crew is better equipped to address the ongoing issue of broken-down boxes and other hazards like bags that are overweight or full of sharp items.

“If we see it’s unsafe, now we have the power not to touch it,” says solid waste crew member Gary Lush, who worked for a contractor before being hired by the town in 2012. “We can take a photo and email it [to town staff] explaining what’s wrong, with the address.”

Under the contractor, workers didn’t have a direct line to town administration. When they didn’t pick up garbage because it was unsafe, town staff and homeowners wouldn’t know why garbage was left behind. Problems would go unsolved, which led to complaints. Now, with clear lines of communication and responsibility, town staff can follow up with property owners about problems, working with the in-house crew. “Every time I put in a complaint, the next week I go back and it’s all cleaned up,” says crew member Shawn Dillon. Being able to tackle unsanitary and unsafe garbage boxes is part of the difference in-house delivery makes.

“Accountability comes with ownership and responsibility. When you have someone specifically responsible for that particular service, they own it,” says Noseworthy. “We’re better prepared and more willing to address occupational health and safety issues like garbage boxes,” he says.

As a contractor, Corey Mitchell didn’t get paid sick time and other benefits he now has as a town employee. “Everything is better – wages are higher with the town, and benefits are better.” The town also supplies safety equipment, like proper boots, that he had to pay for before.

Dillon has been part of the solid waste crew since 2012. He beams when he describes how it feels to be keeping the town clean for his neighbours, family, and community members. “It’s just excellent to be doing this,” he says. The pace of the work lets Dillon and his crewmates work safely and carefully. The in-house routes break the town into four runs, while the contracted-out service had three longer runs – and much more lifting.

For Mitchell, it’s the difference between lifting 13 tons of garbage a day with the contractor, and eight tons with the shorter in-house routes. Crew members also have a regular route, which helps deliver consistent, reliable service. Residents have noticed the difference says Mitchell, who also joined the crew in 2012. “They’ll come up and greet you and thank you. At Christmas, we get cards. People are great with us.”

The tone for the town’s high service standards is set by the white garbage trucks that it bought when the service came in house. Painted white and emblazoned with the town’s logo of a child playing on a tire swing, the crew washes them at the end of every day. The contractor’s trucks were dirty and showed their age with leaks and frequent breakdowns that meant missed pickups, says Cooper.

Former contractor Leo Power worked as part of the original in-house crew. The town’s trucks are “far superior” to the contractor’s vehicles, including a feature that lets the engine work as a brake. “We’ve got a lot of weight [in our trucks]. When you’re going downhill, you’re not picking up speed, you’re actually losing speed,” says Power.

Buying new trucks meant fewer breakdowns and mechanical problems. Town mechanics maintain the fleet, another factor that boosts reliability and reduces costs. A four-day pickup schedule leaves Mondays for maintenance, and there’s room in the town’s service bays for other unexpected work, which means trucks get back on the road faster than with a private garage.

The mechanics, also members of CUPE 3034, are taking care of a million-dollar investment, and it shows in the service they provide, says the town’s Superintendent of Public Works Joe Byrne. “The trucks are serviced to death here. The oil is never black in our trucks, it just doesn’t happen. We won’t lose an engine because the oil wasn’t changed, or anything.”

After five years, the town is planning to start replacing its fleet. “The trucks are still going, but the mileage is up and every part is moving every day”, says Byrne. The town’s fleet renewal plans mean trucks will be retired before problems set in, a move Byrne says will save “a lot of money and a lot of downtime.” The town will keep the truck with the lowest mileage as a backup, ensuring reliable service even when one of the new trucks is off the road for maintenance.

At the end of every collection day, a convoy of four trucks heads for the landfill in nearby St. John’s. Crew members work as a team – waiting until everyone’s finished their route before leaving. If one member’s behind, others who are already done step in to help finish the other route.

“The hardest-working guys in this town work in garbage collection,” says Byrne.

“We’re all out to help everybody ‑ and look after each other,” says Lush. “I’m working with a fine bunch of people.”

Karin Jordan | CUPE Communications

Read more success stories

Five times provincial governments failed with P3 hospitals

creynolds Article, Fact Sheet, issues, Own Your NL, Privatization

A warning for taxpayers in Newfoundland and Labrador

Time and time again provincial governments are forced to admit they were wrong to use public private partnerships (P3s) to construct health care facilities, costing taxpayers billions of dollars more than they would spend if those hospitals were publicly owned and constructed. Auditor Generals, researchers and journalists across Canada continue to report on P3 failures and unnecessary waste of taxpayers money, yet here we are in Newfoundland and Labrador as the Ball Government is about to embark on another foreseeable failure.

Let’s stop with the misleading jargon and practices and start making transparent, evidence-based decisions. Put our health care dollars into the public health care system, not into construction cost overruns and the pockets of private companies – who may not even be from our province. Keep our hospitals and long term care facilities public.

North Bay Regional Hospital – Ontario

The P3 North Bay Regional Hospital cost at least $160 million more as a P3. The project financing costs are adding millions extra each year, over 50 beds have been closed, and they’re on the third round of layoffs with over 100 jobs cut. The hospital only opened in 2011.

Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre – Ontario

The Royal Ottawa Hospital mental health facility opened in November, 2006 – smaller than originally planned, and with fewer beds. The final cost of the P3 hospital was $146 million, a cost overrun of $46 million. Economist Hugh Mackenzie analyzed publicly-available financial details of the ROH. He concluded that private financing added $88 million to the hospital’s costs.

Montréal’s University Health Centres

In 2014, the Quebec newspaper La Presse reported that Auditor General Renaud Lachance released a review of Montréal’s University Health Centres explaining that the capital cost estimates were at least $1.8 billion over the original $5.2 billion announced for the P3 project. That’s actual P3 costs for the Center hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, the research center, the McGill University Health Cente, and the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Center. That’s not a typo – that’s billions!

William Osler Hospital – Ontario

The William Osler Health Centre in Brampton, Ontario is another example of a P3 gone wrong. In 2008, the Ontario Auditor General found that the building of the P3 facility in cost $194 million more (in 2003 dollars) than it would have as a public hospital. Local fundraising in Brampton had to increase to more than $230 million from an original $100 million in order to try to cover the difference. In the words of Globe and Mail columnist Andre Picard “taxpayers got screwed”.

Diamond Health Care Centre, Vancouver General Hospital – British Columbia

The research found that in the case of the P3 Diamond Health Care Centre – they report that the actual nominal cost of a P3 was more than double that of a publicly procured project. In 2009, forensic accountants found that the Diamond Centre in Vancouver’s General Hospital total nominal cost (whole life cost including maintenance) could have been $89 million if it was built publicly. The BC provincial government spent $203 million – or $114 million more – on the hospital as a P3.

Letter: Red lights flashing — will Liberals heed the warning?

creynolds Article, issues, Opinion, Own Your NL, Privatization

The following letter to the editor by Wayne Lucas was published in The Telegram on February 2, 2017.

In her Jan. 26 article entitled “N.L. Liberals follow PCs to P3s, but details scanty,” reporter Ashley Fitzpatrick shines a light on the Liberal government’s lack of transparency in their plans to use a P3 to design, construct, finance and maintain a long-term care facility in Corner Brook.

I tip my hat to Fitzpatrick for her thorough reporting, given that we’ve been provided with so little information about this project.

We want nothing less than full disclosure and transparency of everything, including all financial details and calculations, reports from the workshops, as well as a calculation of how much the P3 payments will be over the life of the project.

On behalf of CUPE Newfoundland Labrador, I call on the Ball government to respond to NDP Leader Earle McCurdy’s request, asking the basic question of what directions were provided to EY for its evaluation work, and to release the full EY report.

Let’s see a complete value for money analysis, available to the public, before they sign any contracts.

I also call on members of the public to contact their MHA and Al Hawkins, the minister of Transportation and Works, and tell them not to privatize the facility in Corner Brook with secret long-term P3 deals.

It’s not too late.

Let’s heed the lessons of provincial governments in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec and Nova Scotia that have already learned the hard way that P3s are more expensive than those that are built the traditional way.

P3s are like credit cards. They’re convenient, until you get the bill.

Wayne Lucas
CUPE Newfoundland Labrador President

Ball Government pushing ‘alternative facts’ through phony budget consultations

CUPE Article, issues

“It’s an alternative fact that the Ball Government is interested in listening to the public about what they want in their provincial budget,” says Wayne Lucas, president of CUPE Newfoundland Labrador.

“There seems to be a trend in politics these days to promote your own hidden agenda using alternative facts,” says Lucas. “It’s an alternative fact that the consultations held for the Provincial Library Review, conducted by EY, allowed the public to have a say in the future of our libraries.”

“Will we have a repeat performance of the library consultations? Because that’s what these budget consultations look like – a grand theatrical performance with no real value.”

There are a few indicators that these consultations are a sham. With approximately one-third of the province’s population living on the Avalon Peninsula, there will only be two two-hour sessions, one in St. John’s on February 2 and the other in Harbour Grace on February 9.

Second, the consultation process was announced one week in advance and only publicized through a news release, buried on the government’s website.

Also, four “leading” questions will be asked, presumably framed in a way that participants will not have the opportunity to speak about the issues that really matter to them.

“If Minister Bennett really wanted to ‘work smarter and deliver services more efficiently’ she would make time to hear from the people who depend on those services and the workers who deliver them,” says Lucas.

“It’s a sham consultation process that only select interest groups will be involved in and, maybe, a few hundred people. We want a budget consultation that allows many more Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to determine what’s in the provincial budget,” states Lucas.