you delay the monies you are paying out to Muskrat Falls…a significant amount
words of Carol Furlong, Head of the Province’s largest public sector union, NAPE,
giving advice to the Davis Government on NTV, Feb. 13th.
continued her expostulation: “We have a war chest
now…combined assets… of more than $40 million…I can assure Government, if they
believe they can just lay off workers …they will feel the brunt of NAPE to the
full capacity of our finances.”
heavily laden statements. One would be foolish to think them merely drum
beating in advance of a contested leadership.
Furlong has done what the Head of no other Union, political party, or business
organization has considered. To her membership and to NTV’s large listener audience, she has telegraphed a stark message, one slow in its evolution, perhaps, but powerful in
its timing and implication: ‘I no longer have faith in the Muskrat Falls
strike like lightening, as if from a latter day Saul: ACTS 9:18 “And
immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his
sight, and he got up and was baptized…”
|NAPE President Carol Furlong|
spoken early against Muskrat, her remarks might have constituted the familiar
ring of a naysayer. But, until now, her resolve to stay the course contained a strength of biblical proportion.
stayed silent on Muskrat Falls, two years ago, when Jerome Kennedy laid-off
1200 public servants. He said he did it to reduce the deficit from
$1.6 billion to $563.8 million, if no action was taken. The painful jolt exhibited the
limitations of government finances and how they are inextricably linked to
financial security for NAPE and other public sector employees.
have been timely, then, for Ms. Furlong to reassess the Union’s position. She could have demanded a stop work order
placed on the project. But NAPE did no such thing. Furlong had faith in Muskrat
Falls, a faith so solid that she kept silent for two more critical years…..until Feb. 13th,
2015. The refusal of ‘big labour’ to use their collective clout likely saw the project proceed
beyond the point of no return.
hard to see why Furlong’s timing is perplexing. Her outburst surely cannot be motivated by the drop in the price of
oil, alone. She and other Union heads, in concert with the St. John’s Board of
Trade and Opposition Parties, all believed Muskrat Falls was a money maker;
a sure-fire bet. Those who castigated its wonky economics were thought
outliers, or worse; unpatriotic.
headway on the issue of cost overruns, the politicians chimed in: “It doesn’t
matter. It is ours”.
Unions stayed silent; ostensibly taken in by the “great conjuror”. But, that is a matter for analysis, later.
tune conveys an abiding horror; such was the stridency of her outburst. The
Union Leader was saying: ‘let’s put Muskrat on ice until we can figure out how
badly it will suck the government dry and threaten public sector workers’. ‘Shutting
it down’ is hardly a position consistent with any profit model advanced
virtually everyone else, to dismiss the Muskrat Falls project?
public has not been made privy?
coming back to Union Offices from Nalcor or from the Muskrat Falls construction
site confirming what others have reported: Nalcor’s productivity is extremely
low; there are delays in the schedule, the cost overruns are unbearable?
problem even worse than we suspect?
RNUNL, and NLTA confidence in Ed Martin and Kathy Dunderdale was always
befuddling. While Unions feign opposition to the self-serving decisions of
private business, they, too, understand the importance of survival. They are
sophisticated organizations. They have access to large amounts of money; a $25 million strike
fund, $40 million of assets confirms NAPE’s heft.
in fact, large businesses. They are in the media every other day assessing public policy issues, warning against
lay-offs and promoting better public services; all in the interest of job
security and expanding the membership. In the case of Muskrat Falls, too, they would have made
Ironically, not NAPE, or CUPE or any of the public sector unions, but
the RDTC, IBEW, Labourers’ and Rock and Tunnel Unions are the major beneficiaries of those jobs.
have used a different metric to arrive at a conclusion the project should be condemned. But public
sector unions knew that if Muskrat got in trouble the government would look to
their members; first, to their jobs, to their wages next, and, if things went seriously awry, to their pension
plans. No benefit would be sacred.
Public employees represent the largest percentage of government expenditures. Alberta already has the
sector is in its cross hairs; Saskatchewan is expected to follow suit.
credit, Ms. Furlong is showing leadership; she is not in hiding, as are the
Opposition Parties, business organizations, and other public sector unions, too. Gone is any
ideological glue or deference to the partisan divide within her ranks. Rather
than an investment to which dividends are attached, she now believes Muskrat
Falls is a money pit.
to share with us what caused this Damascene moment; what caused the ‘scales to
fall from her eyes’ affording her such unexpectedly sudden enlightenment?
owes her membership and the rest of us that much.