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Executive Council

April 9, 2009

Nurses Union Rejection of Extremely Generous Government Offer
Including 31% and 27% Pay Increases Disappointing

The Provincial Government is deeply disappointed that the Leader of the Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses� Union is recommending the rejection of government�s lucrative and generous offer, which would have avoided a province-wide strike and negatively impacted patients. The province made substantial improvements to the original offer to nurses, for a total package worth an additional $70 million to the province�s approximately 5,000 nurses.

"From day one in this lengthy process, union leadership has stated that pay and recruitment and retention are priority areas of concern and we have offered an extremely generous package to address those issues," said the Honourable Danny Williams, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. "Our offer would see new nurses receive 31 per cent higher salaries than they receive today over the contract, and senior nurses a 27 per cent pay increase. Today, there are reports that the Canadian jobless rate has not been at these levels since the early 1980s, with more than 350,000 job losses since 2008. Across the country there are wage freezes, lay offs and minimal pay increases. In this economic climate, we are at a total loss to understand the rationale behind the union�s rejection of this extremely generous offer."

The offer currently on the table for nurses would see a new nurse move from making $45,792/year to making $60,001/year; and senior nurses would move from making $58,511/year to making $74,295/year. The province�s offer also included substantial increases to stand-by and shift differential rates paid to nurses. These improvements to the collective agreement would also go a long way toward improving recruitment and retention of the province�s nurses.

"Our offer would see Newfoundland and Labrador nurses rank first and second east of Ontario in terms of maximum and starting salaries after four years and second in Atlantic Canada in terms of shift differentials and standby," said the Honourable Jerome Kennedy, Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board. "We have proven with this offer that our government values our nurses and we have listened to their concerns. The union has proven with their rejection that they are intent on a strike. This is most unfortunate and clearly not in the best interests of patients or the health care system."

The minister added that government now has no choice but to proceed expeditiously with plans to deal with the impending strike, should nurses reject this offer, which is government�s final offer.

"In any negotiation, there is give and take," added Premier Williams. "And in this negotiation government gave a considerable amount while the union kept moving the target. On issues like the market modifier, we simply must as an employer have the ability to address hard to fill positions.  This is especially crucial in our province with a vast geography and essential to ensuring people in every part of the province have good medical care."

Minister Kennedy also noted that the extended earnings loss (EEL) is an issue that was accepted by unions representing more than 30,000 workers and it should be acceptable to nurses as well. "We are not trying to disadvantage nurses in anyway, and I hope that nurses recognize that this issue impacts very few people and that new EEL provisions only impact an individual after a lengthy process that could take up to five years or more," said Minister Kennedy. "Given the generous package we are offering, this is a fair and a reasonable position. We can do no more than we have done in these precarious economic times to make our nurses competitive."

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Media contacts:

Elizabeth Matthews
Director of Communications
Office of the Premier
Roger Scaplen
Press Secretary
Office of the Premier
709-729-4304, 727-0991
Tansy Mundon
Director of Communications
Department of Finance
709-729-6830, 685-2646

2009 04 09                                                   6:40 p.m.

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