McInnes Cooper no longer working with N.L. government on union contract talks – Newfoundland & Labrador

Atlantic Canadian law firm McInnes Cooper is no longer being paid by the Newfoundland and Labrador government to help in contract negotiations with public sector unions.

‘We’re starting fresh with negotiations and how we deal with unions.’
– Tom Osborne

Access to information requests reveal government has paid McInnes Cooper more than $266,000 for its services during contract negotiations.

Two days after Tom Osborne replaced Cathy Bennett as the province’s finance minister, the firm has withdrawn from the relationship, according to Osborne.

“It’s a new slate,” Osborne told CBC on Tuesday.

“We’re starting fresh with negotiations and how we deal with unions and [McInnes Cooper] have themselves withdrawn services.”

Jerry Earle had previously criticized the provincial government for paying more than $260,000 to McInnes Cooper for services related to upcoming contract negotiations. (John Pike/CBC)

The unions have been critical of government for spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the firm’s services.

However, this week Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE) President Jerry Earle expressed optimism about contract talks after the cabinet shuffle was announced.

Osborne said he’s been listening to the outcry from the unions about the hiring of McInnes Cooper, and thinks the bargaining team within the treasury board — with advice from the justice department — will be able to proceed successfully without the law firms’s help.

“The unions have expressed their desire to communicate and negotiate directly with officials within government and I’m certainly prepared to move forward with that,” he said.

‘Tough issues’ to sort out

Osborne said he’s been reaching out to leaders of the various public sector unions this week, and hopes to set up formal meetings with them as soon as possible.

‘I don’t expect that this is going to be solved tomorrow or the next day.’
– Tom Osborne

While he knows how tough the bargaining process can be, Osborne said he is as hopeful as the unions for renewed approach to efficiently sorting out the public sector contracts. 

“I certainly hope that we can have a positive relationship with the leadership of the unions, that’s my intention,” he said.

“I know that there are tough issues that have to be ironed out, and I don’t expect that this is going to be solved tomorrow or the next day — but I certainly hope that we can move this…

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