Manitoba Premier announces legislation to freeze, cap wages

“Despite the government’s intent to impose legislation, our union remains open and committed to going to the bargaining table to negotiate a fair deal.” — Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU President

Winnipeg (22 March 2017) — For months, Premier Brian Pallister has been moving further and further away from his promise to protect public services and the people who deliver them. Instead of taking a balanced approach that protects public services and brings the budget back to balance over 8 years, as he promised, the Premier has focused narrowly on cuts to services and the number of workers. 

Premier reneges on promise to protect public services and workers, tables new bills to restrict wages 

This narrow focus has included repeated threats of legislation that would interfere with collective bargaining for public sector workers. These threats have left many members of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU/NUPGE) with more questions than answers about what to expect. On March 20, the government answered many of these question when it tabled 2 new bills: Bill 28, The Public Services Sustainability Act; and Bill 29, Health Sector Bargaining Unit Review Act.

Rather than meeting at the bargaining table to negotiate an agreement, the government has chosen a heavy-handed approach by using their majority in the legislature to push through Bills 28 and 29.

More years of wage freezes

This means public sector workers can expect to see 2 more years of wage freezes and 2 years of wage caps well below the cost of living (1.75 per cent over 4 years). These freezes and caps would begin after the current or most recent collective agreement expires.

“This is difficult news for public sector workers who have already agreed to 2 years of wage freezes, said Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU President. “Despite the government’s intent to impose legislation, our union remains open and committed to going to the bargaining table to negotiate a fair deal.”

The legislation does not impose some of the ideas that government has talked about recently in the media. Bill 28 for instance, does not

  • reopen existing contracts; 
  • force public workers to take unpaid days off; or
  • change pension plans.

This legislation will apply to the civil service, government agencies, crown corporations, regional health authorities, child and family service agencies, universities, colleges, staff of the legislative assembly and its independent offices, school divisions, and the organizations listed here

Government determined to restructure health care bargaining units

As well, with Bill 29, the government affirmed its desire to radically reduce the number of bargaining units in each health region and for each health employer. They will appoint a commissioner to define the new bargaining units. 

The Health Sector Bargaining Unit Review Act would also mean that

  • representation votes would be held in multi-union bargaining sectors in each region
  • one collective agreement would exist for all employees in a specific health sector
  • the Minister would establish employer councils to bargain on behalf of health care employers.

The MGEU/NUPGE will continue to work closely with other unions through the Manitoba Federation of Labour to put forward constructive alternatives to cuts and consult with legal representatives to ensure members’ rights are protected. 

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 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