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Re-election of Newfoundland Liberal’s provides opportunity to reset priorities

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March 27, 2021 - 12:00 AM

ST. JOHN’S —The election of Premier Andrew Furey with a majority government provides the opportunity for the Liberal government to reset its priorities to improve the lives of workers and their families.

“We’ve lost precious time during a period of crisis in election campaign mode, now it’s time for Premier Furey to roll up his sleeves and work to deliver policies that will make a difference,” said Unifor Atlantic Regional Director Linda MacNeil.

Unifor repeatedly called on Furey, and his predecessor Dwight Ball, to increase the Newfoundland minimum wage to $15 an hour. Even with the upcoming increase on April 1, 2021, Newfoundland’s minimum wage will still be among the lowest in the country at $12.50.

“The pandemic has disproportionately hurt low-income earners across Newfoundland and Labrador, including those on the frontline,” said MacNeil. “Grocery store workers are called COVID heroes by politicians as they struggle to get by making minimum or close to minimum wage. It’s not a living wage and that’s why we saw a 12-week strike across the province last year.

While Furey acknowledged the need to address poverty during the campaign, pledging consultation and a multifaceted approach to the issue, a quarter of the province’s workforce continues to earn minimum wage.

The pandemic has also exposed inequalities and systemic flaws in provincial labour laws, including the failure to provide paid sick days to all workers.

“It’s time to stop making workers choose between their health and being able to provide for their families,” said MacNeil. “Newfoundland and Labrador should be a leader on paid sick days and not be left dragging behind other provinces.”

On behalf of the 15,000 members of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW-Unifor), the largest private sector union in Newfoundland and Labrador, action must be taken to protect good wages, provide safe workplaces and build the inshore fishery.

Unifor is calling on the new provincial government to reduce concentrated corporate control, stop the erosion of free and fair collective bargaining by enacting measures to address contract flipping and ban the use of scab replacement workers. The union is also seeking standardization of all personal protective equipment to meet national standards.

Securing a strong future in the energy sector must also be a priority for the Liberals. While a positive step was made with a $175 million pledge towards the revival of the Terra Nova more must be done to reverse layoffs to ensure the industry can recover from the COVID-19 economic downturn intact. 

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector and represents 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

For media inquiries or to arrange a Skype, Zoom or Facetime interview please contact Unifor Communications Representative Kathleen O’Keefe at kathleen.okeefe@unifor.org or 416-896-3303 (cell).