Government employees bear brunt of deficit fight, including call for two-year wage freeze.
Winnipeg (24 March 2010) - The 2010 Manitoba budget falls short for public sector workers, says the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU/NUPGE).
Tabled by Finance Minister Rosann Wowchuk on Tuesday, the budget contains a five-year plan that the government says will "tackle the budget shortfall while at the same time continue to invest in front-line services.”
MGEU president Peter Olfert says approximately 90% of all new spending will go to health care, education and training, family services and justice.
"But this spending comes at an expense as half of all other government departments will see their budgets cut," Olfert says, adding that the government owes citizens and public employees further explanation.
“We know in any budget that there will be key areas that governments will choose to spend more heavily on than others,” Olfert notes.
“It’s concerning for our members who work in these departments facing a shortfall. What will happen to the services they deliver? I think we need to see some additional details on how the government plans to maintain services in those departments, while cutting their budgets.”
The budget projects a $545-million deficit and, as the MGEU and its members have noted over the past few weeks, the province expects its workers to pay for most of that deficit.
Wowchuk reiterated in her budget address that the government will be seeking a two-year wage freeze, or “pause” for all of its public sector workers, including approximately 13,000 MGEU members.
“I’ve said time and again that managing the deficit by putting the burden solely on the backs of public sector workers is not the answer," Olfert emphasizes.
"It appears this government believes it is. This doesn’t change our plans as we enter into negotiations for our members. We will be seeking increases to wages and benefits as we always have and we’ll let the negotiation process determine what happens.”
As a result of the budget, the government plans to:
- Seek a two-year wage freeze from all public sector workers.
- Invest 90% of all new spending in health care, education and training, family services and justice.
- Reduce spending in half of government departments.
- Spend $1.8 billion on infrastructure projects.
- Amend the balanced budget law, allowing it to run deficits for four years before returning to a surplus in 2014.
- Run a deficit of $545 million in the fiscal year beginning April 1.
- Boost public school funding by nearly 3% and post-secondary institutions by 4.5%.
- Allow tuition fee increases of 5% for universities and $150 a year at colleges.
- Delay planned cuts to corporate and personal income taxes.
- Add 1,500 new social housing units over the next five years.
- Boost funding for Winnipeg’s police force by $2.2 million to $11.7 million.
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