Judge rules Man. govt. must appoint arbitration panel, case for refusal ‘disingenuous at best’

"I hope [this] ruling shows the Premier and his government that it's time for them to stop fighting with their own employees, to stop the threats, and to start treating the people who deliver vital public services with respect." — Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU President

Winnipeg (20 April 2020) — Last week in Manitoba, the Court of Queen’s Bench ruled that the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU/NUPGE) was entirely justified in seeking arbitration on behalf of Civil Service members. In her ruling, Judge Keyser sided firmly with the union and directed Finance Minister Scott Fielding to appoint an arbitration panel as clearly outlined in the Civil Service Act.

Govt. wasted taxpayer money

"The Pallister government wasted valuable taxpayer funds by forcing us to go to court when they should have simply followed the law," said Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU President. "I hope [this] ruling shows the Premier and his government that it's time for them to stop fighting with their own employees, to stop the threats, and to start treating the people who deliver vital public services with respect."

The Civil Service contract expired last March, and as negotiations began, the province refused to discuss whether they intended to table the wage mandate contained in Bill 28. This act, passed in 2017, but still not yet proclaimed into force, mandates 2 years of wage freezes and strict caps on wage increases in the following 2 years.

"By failing to be up front about their intentions, the province made meaningful discussions impossible," said Gawronsky. "They left us no choice but to file for arbitration in July."

Civil Service Act requires the appointment of an impartial, third-party arbitration panel

Upon the request of the either the union or the employer, the Civil Service Act requires the appointment of an impartial, third-party arbitration panel to hear both sides and determine a settlement. However, Finance Minister Scott Fielding, who is responsible for the Civil Service, refused to do so.

"Since being elected, the Pallister government has shown a very concerning lack of respect for their own public service employees," said Gawronsky. "Provincial labour relations have been marred by funding cuts, privatization of services, wage freezes, and layoffs — conditions that continue to this day, as we face the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 crisis."

Govt. plans to lay off or reduce hours of public service workers

Most recently, the government has said they plan to either lay off or reduce the work hours of so-called "non-essential" public services.

"Those who work in our civil service are on the job right now, providing the public services that Manitobans rely on, and keeping our province running as smoothly as it possibly can through this pandemic. Most can’t believe the Premier would even consider reducing some of those services during this crisis,” said Gawronsky. “The judicial win today is vindicating for those hard-working people who had to watch their own employer fight them in the courts rather than sit down and negotiate fair and square. I can’t tell you how much we welcome the opportunity to have this contract decided by an impartial third party. It certainly appears that this is the only path to a fair settlement."

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 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