"We’ve been calling out the cuts and chaos in healthcare for years and the government refused to listen. Hopefully after all the heartbreak and loss of the last year our government has learned when those who provide care are not valued, it’s patient care that suffers most.” — Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU President
Winnipeg (01 April 2021) — Michelle Gawronsky, President of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU/NUPGE), submitted the union's recommendations for the 2021 provincial budget yesterday, calling on the province to invest in public services that will help Manitobans weather the fallout of a global pandemic and economic recession.
Manitobans need public services, stop privatization
“Now, more than ever, we must ensure that quality public services are in place to support Manitobans through the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 virus,” Gawronsky said. “Years of underfunding the services that we rely on have left us vulnerable. We are calling on the provincial government to stop the cuts, privatization, and offloading of responsibilities that have led us to the brink in times of crisis.”
Gawronsky said Manitoba’s under-resourced response to the pandemic has been compounded because of the government’s fixation on the bottom dollar and privatization. Rather than invest in public services, the government has contracted out more laboratory testing, enforcement of public health orders, and mental health supports.
“We question if these contracts are really in the public interest, and if farming out services to outside, private corporations is really the best for our pandemic response,” she said.
Patient care suffers the most
The MGEU/NUPGE’s submissions points to the chronic underfunding and short-staffing in personal care homes that left health care workers and residents so vulnerable when the pandemic hit.
“Pretty much since the virus first appeared here in Manitoba, we were pushing for more resources and better access to personal protective equipment (PPE) for those on the frontlines. But really, we’ve been calling out the cuts and chaos in healthcare for years and the government refused to listen,” Gawronsky said. “Hopefully after all the heartbreak and loss of the last year our government has learned when those who provide care are not valued, it’s patient care that suffers most.”
Cuts will not help Manitobans recover
Economic recovery must also be a critical focus of the 2021 budget. Since 2016, there are 3,000 fewer workers within the Civil Service and jobs continue to be cut across the province. Not only have services suffered due to understaffing — including unmet health inspection requirements and water quality risks, distance learning challenges for college students, and delayed maintenance of key infrastructure like roads and bridges — the closures of the Manitoba Development Centre in Portage, the Dauphin Correctional Centre and agricultural offices throughout the province have robbed good, family-supporting jobs from local economies.
“Manitobans are looking for leadership from the Provincial government to guide us through these unprecedented times,” Gawronsky said. “The old agenda of cuts and privatization will not help us respond to and recover from COVID-19, and will not get our economy going and growing for all Manitobans.”
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