Civil Service - Components 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 - Bargaining Brief
Updated: Oct 14, 2021
Approx. Number of Members: 14,000
Current Contract Expires: March 29, 2019
MGEU Staff Negotiator: Sheila Gordon
Elected Bargaining Committee Members: Administration: Michelle Scebenski Clerical: Cheryl Fraser Corrections: Dylan Almdal Health: Vacant Legal: Deb Jamerson Physical Sciences: Brian Wilson Social Sciences: Cristina Quon Trades: Joe Dooley 1st Vice-President: Charlotte McWilliams
LATEST BARGAINING NEWS
June of 2020, the Court of Queen’s Bench ruled that Bill 28, the government's wage freeze legislation, was an
unconstitutional violation of collective bargaining rights under the
Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Shortly after, the Manitoba government appealed that ruling
On October 13, 2021, the Manitoba Court of Appeal announced it was overturning the Court of Queen’s Bench decision in favour of workers.
The unions involved in the Partnership to Defend Pubic Services remain committed to standing up for all workers and our right to free and fair collective bargaining.
Next steps include reviewing the Court of Appeal’s ruling in detail, and over the next few weeks, meeting with other PDPS member unions to determine our next steps, including the possibility of an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
In addition, we are working with legal counsel to determine what this means specifically for MGEU members. All impacted groups will be kept updated as we move forward.
see below for more a detailed history of the issues that have impacted Civil Service negotiations over the last couple of years.
Overview of Bargaining So Far
Throughout November, the Civil Service Bargaining Committee toured the province to attend over 50 bargaining proposal meetings.
The Committee then worked with staff negotiators to clarify key issues, identify priorities common to all Civil Service members, and develop a comprehensive package to present to the employer.The Civil Service Bargaining Committee exchanged proposal packages with the employer on Monday, March 4, 2019 and negotiations began in mid-April.
Two key issues continue to impact the Civil Service Bargaining Committee's efforts to reach a deal on behalf of members.
THE GOVERNMENT'S WAGE FREEZE LEGISLATION, COURT HEARING
The trial for the Partnership to Defend
Public Services (PDPS) constitutional challenge of the
Public Services Sustainability Act (also known as Bill 28), the
Pallister government's wage freeze law, began on Monday, November 18, 2019.
Kevin Rebeck (MFL President), Mark Hudson (University of Manitoba Faculty Association), and Tom Paci (Manitoba Teachers’ Society) were the first witnesses called by the PDPS. MGEU President Michelle Gawronsky took the stand as the 4th PDPS witness. Economists, 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.
In January 2020, the PDPS and the Government filed their written arguments with the court. Final arguments were heard over three days in February.
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.
THE GOVERNMENT'S REFUSAL TO APPOINT AN ARBITRATION BOARD
Civil Service collective agreement expired in March, and bargaining
proposals were exchanged with the employer just prior to that. The
Province’s proposals included a long list of concessions that would
erode many rights and benefits in the collective agreement.
In April, the Civil Service Bargaining Committee began bargaining meetings with the Province in good faith.
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, the Public Service Sustainability Act. This Act,
passed in 2017 but not yet proclaimed into force by the Province, would
mandate two years of wage freezes and strict caps on wage increases in
the following two years.
The Civil Service Bargaining Committee understood that for fair and meaningful negotiations to continue, the Province needed to be up front about whether or not its own Bill 28 mandate would be imposed in negotiations. The answer to this critical question influences all other issues at the bargaining table. By failing to be up front about their intentions, the Province made meaningful discussions impossible.
For these reasons, the 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 panel 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 our presentation on behalf of all MGEU Civil Service members.
However, in September, the MGEU learned that Minister Scott Fielding, who is responsible for the Civil Service, refused to appoint an arbitration board, as the Civil Service Act requires him to do upon the request of either the union or the employer. In doing so, he requested that MGEU return to the bargaining table rather than fulfill his legal obligation to appoint an arbitration panel. In effect, the Minister is denying Civil Service members their legal right to arbitration, which is why the Committee is left with no choice but to go to court to seek an order for Minister Fielding and his government to follow the law.
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, 2020 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 was appealing the judge's ruling in the MGEU's favour.
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.
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 meant that MGEU Civil Service members would 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.
An Interest Arbitration Board -- made up of a chairperson, arbitrator
Michael Werier, and two appointees, one representing the union and one
representing the government -- was appointed in spring 2021 to determine the
terms and conditions of the Civil Service collective agreement.
(Note: the current collective agreement, which expired on March 29, 2019, remains in full force and effect until the new agreement is determined).
The Board conducted its hearings on September 21 and 22, 2021. Lawyers for the union and the government filed extensive written submissions prior to the hearing and made oral arguments at the hearing.
The Board will now consider the submissions of both parties and then determine the new terms and conditions of the agreement. The decision of the Board is expected sometime in spring 2022.