LATEST BARGAINING NEWS
Due to the Provincial election being called, bargaining dates that were previously scheduled in September (19th & 26th) were cancelled and currently being rescheduled. Please stay tuned.
Overview of Bargaining So Far
Members of Government Community Workers Locals 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256 and 258 had an opportunity to put forward their ideas and proposals for their next collective agreement at a series of meetings held throughout the province in April 2019. Negotiations were then delayed due to issues at the Civil Service Master bargaining table and throughout the public sector (see further below).
The Locals 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256 and 258 Bargaining Committee finally began negotiations with the employer in June 2021, and bargaining continued on October 6, November 9 and December 1, 2021, and January 18, 2022.
Once talks around non-monetary items, such as working conditions and contract language, were completed, the Government Community Workers Locals 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256 and 258 Bargaining Committee and the employer began working towards resolving monetary items, such as wages and benefits.
Although bargaining was supposed to resume on August 31 and September 1, 2022, these dates were cancelled at the employer’s request while they sought a revised mandate in order to commence bargaining on monetary items.
The Government Community Workers Locals 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256 and 258 Bargaining Committee returned to the bargaining table with the employer on December 1, 2022.
Bargaining was delayed due to staffing issues within the employer’s Labour Relations department and the Bargaining Committee continued to press the employer to return to the bargaining table as soon as possible.
MORE ABOUT THE GOVERNMENT’S WAGE FREEZE LEGISLATION (BILL 28)
In 2017, the government announced that they would not consider giving any public service workers any general pay increase for the first two years of their new contract. So along with other Manitoba unions, the MGEU formed the Partnership to Defend Public Services to challenge the government in court they’re doing goes against Canadian laws – all workers have the right to negotiate a fair contract, including their wages.
The trial was held over a few days in November 2019. MGEU President Michelle Gawronsky took the stand as the 4th PDPS witness. Economists, other labour leaders, labour relations experts, as well as several MGEU staff were also called to testify.
All of this testimony added to the body of evidence placed before the judge, which already included 37 affidavits and more than 100 pages of agreed upon facts.
The PDPS and the Government file written arguments in January and the court reconvened to hear closing arguments from February 18-20, 2020.
On June 11, a Court of Queen's Bench judge ruled in favour of the unions, agreeing that Bill 28 violated members' rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
On August 17, 2020, the Pallister government announced it would be appealing the judge's decision.
The government had until January 2021 to submit supporting documentation for its appeal by the end of January 2021 and the Partnership to Defend Pubic Services (PDPS) (which includes the MGEU and other public-sector unions) then had 30 days to file material in response. On June 2, 2021, the Court heard from both sides in the Appeal hearing. The PDPS legal counsel made the case, once again, that the Public Services Sustainability Act (Bill 28) is unconstitutional, as it denies public sector workers of their Charter rights to sit down and negotiate fair wage increases with their employer.
On October 13, 2021, the Manitoba Court of Appeal announced it was overturning the Court of Queen’s Bench decision in favour of workers.
On November 3, 2021, the PDPS announced it will be seeking leave from the Supreme Court of Canada to hear an appeal of the Government of Manitoba’s public sector wage freeze legislation.
On November 24, 2021, the government announced it would be repealing the Public Services Sustainability Act (PSSA or ‘Bill 28’ wage freeze legislation), in an effort to create a ‘fresh start’ and take a ‘different approach’ at the bargaining table, as well as a new no-layoff commitment for the public sector.
However, the PSSA has already done significant damage to collective bargaining in the public sector. Thousands of public workers, including Government Community workers, remain without a contract and at many bargaining tables, employers continue to insist that the wage freezes and caps in the PSSA are non-negotiable.
The repeal of the PSSA also does not deal with the fact that two Manitoba courts have issued drastically different rulings on its constitutionality (see below for more details).
On December 23, 2021, the MGEU, other unions, and the MFL applied to appeal to the Supreme Court in order to resolve the constitutionality of the PSSA.
THE GOVERNMENT’S REFUSAL TO APPOINT A THIRD-PARTY ARBITRATION BOARD
The Civil Service Bargaining Committee exchanged proposal packages with the employer in March 2019 and negotiations began in mid-April. Almost immediately, these negotiations were frustrated by the Province’s refusal to discuss wages and benefits and their unwillingness to be up front about whether or not they intended to table the wage mandate contained in Bill 28.
As a result, the Civil Service Bargaining Committee felt compelled to file for arbitration, which allows an independent, third-party panel to hear arguments from both sides, and determine a contract settlement. The Committee strongly believes that an independent arbitration board will provide a fair outcome, setting aside the Province’s unproclaimed legislation. This judgement has been reinforced by recent arbitration settlements in Manitoba’s public sector.
After filing for arbitration, the MGEU began working with legal counsel to prepare the MGEU’s presentation on behalf of all MGEU Civil Service members.
However, in September 2019, the MGEU learned that the Minister responsible for the Civil Service was refusing to appoint an arbitration panel.
This left the MGEU with no choice but to file an application asking the Court of Queen's Bench to order the government to appoint an arbitrator.
The union and the Province filed written arguments on January 30, 2020 and made their case in front of the judge on February 27, 2020.
On April 16, 2020 the Court of Queen’s Bench ruled that the MGEU 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.
On June 1, the Minister responsible for the Civil Service wrote the MGEU to say it would be taking the first step in complying with the court's order to appoint an arbitration panel. However, the Minister also said the government would be appealing the judge's ruling in the MGEU's favour.
On April 13, 2021, the Court of Appeal confirmed that the MGEU had a right to have an interest arbitration board appointed to determine the terms and conditions of the next Civil Service collective agreement.
This victory means that MGEU Civil Service members will finally get a fair hearing before an independent arbitration board.
In the decision, the Minister’s appeal was dismissed, the court order to appoint an arbitration board was confirmed, and the Minister ordered to pay court costs to the MGEU.
When the government appealed the original court ruling in the MGEU's favour in August 2020, the union continued to push ahead with preparations for the arbitration at the same time as the appeal proceeds through the courts. Both the MGEU and the employer nominated their representatives to the Arbitration Board. The MGEU nominee was Tony Marques, a long-time labour lawyer who recently retired from the Myers law firm after decades of distinguished service. The government appointed Rick Stevenson, former ADM of Labour Relations, as their nominee. Together, they agreed to appoint Michael Werier to be chairperson of the Board.
Over the last several months, lawyers for the union and the government filed extensive written submissions and on September 21 and 22, 2021, made their oral arguments in front of the Board.
The Board then considered the submissions of both parties to determine the new terms and conditions of the agreement.
On May 18, 2022, the Interest Arbitration Board awarded the terms of a new collective agreement for MGEU Civil Service members. The MGEU was successful in being awarded almost all of its proposals, while the Board rejected each and every concession proposed by the Province.