Government Community Workers Locals 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256 and 258 - Bargaining Brief
Updated: Apr 15, 2021
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.
While this goes forward, dates in November 2021 have also been set by
the court for the second part of the Court of Queen’s Bench trial, to
determine any additional remedies that go beyond having Bill 28struck
down. Meanwhile, the MGEU and the other PDPS partners continue to focus
on trying to get back to the bargaining table.
Please see below for more detail on the issues impacting negotiations.
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.
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.
Since then, the union has been working with MGEU lawyers to review the Judge’s 236-page ruling and
determine next steps.
On August 17, 2020, the Pallister government announced it would be appealing the judge's decision.
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 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 have nominated their representatives to the Arbitration Board. The MGEU nominee is Tony Marques, a long-time labour lawyer who recently retired from the Myers law firm after decades of distinguished service. The government has appointed Rick Stevenson, former ADM of Labour Relations, as their nominee. Together, they agreed to appoint Michael Werier to be chairperson of the Board.The arbitration hearing will take place in September 2021.