Manitoba Government privatizes the property registry

"Manitobans are going to be paying more for this service, and if other provinces' experiences are a barometer, we’re going to lose jobs while we’re at it." - Michelle Gawronsky, President MGEU/NUPGE

Winnipeg (14 Dec. 2012) –The Manitoba Government has announced its intention to sell the publicly-owned Property Registry to Ontario-based Teranet. The move marks a departure for the government, as it is the first time that a profitable government special operating agency has been sold into private hands by this administration.

“Like a lot of people, I am surprised and disappointed at today’s announcement,” said Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU/NUPGE) President Michelle Gawronsky. “To date I think we’ve seen a commitment from this government to maintain public entities and protect Manitoba jobs, but that’s not what we’re seeing today.”Gawronsky said one of her concerns is that Manitobans are going to be paying more for this service, and if other provinces' experiences are a barometer, we’re going to lose jobs while we’re at it. As part of the deal, Teranet has negotiated the right to charge Manitobans fees of one per cent over the rate of inflation for 30 years on transactions the company processes. Those transactions currently include providing certifications on titles of land, maintaining land records, and other services relating to the cataloguing and transfer of land parcels. Essentially, every time a property changes hands in Manitoba, land titles services are utilized. “Allowing this escalator in charges means Manitoba citizens will be asked to help pay for this deal,” Gawronsky said. “I sincerely hope the government is straight about what this is going to cost Manitoba's families.” Teranet has a chequered history in Ontario, where it controls that province’s land registry. The history has been fraught with labour conflict, significant job losses, and rural office closures. In Manitoba, the MGEU/NUPGE fears the prospect of jobs moving to Toronto is also something that is a strong possibility over the long-term.“According to our sister union in Ontario (The Ontario Public Service Employees Union/NUPGE), Teranet has downsized unionized jobs from 350 to 60, all the while paying as many as 100 non-union workers to perform bargaining unit work that is supposed to be protected by labour laws in that province,” said Gawronsky.

“There are grievances pending in Ontario on these practices. What message does this send to Manitoba workers about the protection of the collective bargaining process and the value of public jobs, or the worthiness of trying to keep jobs here at home in Manitoba?” It is unclear, in the medium to long-term, how many jobs currently supporting the Manitoba economy will be moved to Toronto, and how many rural offices will shut their doors as a result of today’s announcement, but it is something MGEU/NUPGE will continue monitoring on behalf of its members. “The government has made a decision we’re clearly not happy with and do not support,” Gawronsky said. “We’ll take some time now to review the fine details of the deal and most importantly speak with our members about what their options are, and what kind of action they want us to take on their behalf.” “I imagine there will be some difficult discussions happening around kitchen tables tonight about whether the loyal employees of the Property Registry want to trust their futures to an Ontario-based company with a history of downsizing, or whether they want to try to find other work within Manitoba’s public sector.”

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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