Government Community Workers Locals 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256 and 258 - Bargaining Brief
Updated: Jun 18, 2020
Approx. Number of Members: 580
Current Contract Expires: May 31, 2019
MGEU Staff Negotiator: Wesley Whiteside
Elected Bargaining Committee Members: Sandy Croy Theresa Hatch Angela Janisse
LATEST BARGAINING NEWS
On June 11, Court of Queen's Bench Justice McKelvey
ruled that the government's wage freeze law, the Public Services
Sustainability Act (Bill 28), and its actions to impede collective
bargaining with Manitoba's public sector workers are a violation of the
Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Union lawyers are
currently analyzing the 230-page decision. The MGEU is urging the
government to respect the judge's decision and begin free and fair
negotiations as soon as possible. Stay tuned for further
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. Since then, however, no negotiations have been scheduled due to issues at the Civil Service Master bargaining table and throughout the public sector.
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.
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 includes 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.
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 is refusing to appoint an arbitration panel. In effect, the Minister is denying Civil Service members their legal right to arbitration.
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.
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
will be take 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. This shows the disrespect this government has for its own workers, not to mention taxpayer dollars. One judge has already told them they are wrong and instead of righting their error, the government is digging itself deeper in a dogged attempt to delay the bargaining process.
Fortunately, the Court order will have effect while the appeal proceeds. This means that an interest arbitration board can be appointed and arbitration dates set while the Court of Appeal process to unfolds.