"Without the ability to negotiate a fair wage, it gets tougher to maintain a qualified workforce and services inevitably suffer.” — Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU President
Winnipeg (23 Nov. 2016) — In the wake of the Manitoba government’s speech from the Throne on November 21, Michelle Gawronsky, President of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU/NUPGE), said she is deeply concerned about the growing gap between the platform the Premier ran on during the election campaign and the agenda his government is now pursuing.
Manitoba government threatens wage freezes even before getting to bargaining table
"We were looking for a clear sign that this government was going to follow through on its commitment to protect and invest in the public services Manitobans count on,” she said. “Instead, the Premier is now proposing to not only strip working Manitobans of their bargaining rights, but is also threatening the very services that he clearly and publicly promised to protect.”
Gawronsky said she met with the Premier just a few weeks ago, and he assured her that he supports fair collective bargaining, which is a constitutionally protected right in Canada.
“Yet this afternoon, his government proposed legislating against any kind of wage increases for public sector workers,” Gawronsky said. “This flies in the face of fair negotiations and all Manitobans should be very concerned about the public services they value and their constitutional rights as workers.”
Public service workers falling behind on wages compared to private sector
In Manitoba, wage increases in the private sector have outstripped public sector wages over the past decade — average weekly earnings in Manitoba increased by 32 per cent, while provincial government wages and inflation both increased by 19 per cent.
“So as it is, those Manitobans working day in and day out to keep families safe and supported, to keep our province going and growing, have been doing more, with less,” she continued. “We’ll be heading into bargaining this year on behalf of workers who Manitobans count on every day ― college instructors teaching in-demand trades to our young people, those diagnosing serious illness, and those caring for our most vulnerable elderly. Without the ability to negotiate a fair wage, it gets tougher to maintain a qualified workforce and services inevitably suffer.”
Free collective bargaining is a constitutionally protected right
Citing a 10 per cent vacancy rate in today’s civil service, Gawronsky called the government’s proposal unconstitutional and short-sighted.
“Canadians have fought hard for the constitutional right to sit down and bargain collectively with their employer, free of any predetermined agenda,” she said. “And Manitobans have made it clear they want their government to build and maintain quality public services. What they’re proposing would not just break a promise to Manitobans, it would be a big step backward for all of us.”
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