Premier Announces Legislation to Freeze, Cap Wages in Public Sector
Mar 20, 2017
For months, Premier Brian Pallister has been moving farther and farther away from his promise to protect public services and the people who deliver them. Instead of taking a balanced approach that protects public services and brings the budget back to balance over eight years as he promised, the Premier has focused narrowly on cuts to services and workers.
This narrow focus has included repeated threats of legislation that would interfere with collective bargaining for public sector workers. These threats have left many MGEU members with more questions than answers about what to expect. Today, the government answered many of these question when it tabled two new bills: Bill 28, The Public Services Sustainability Act; and Bill 29, Health Sector Bargaining Unit Review Act.
Rather than meeting at the bargaining table to negotiate an agreement, the government has chosen a heavy-handed approach by using their majority in the Legislature to push through Bills 28 and 29.
This means public sector workers can expect to see two more
years of wage freezes and two years of wage caps well below the cost of
living (Year1: 0%; Year 2: 0%, Year 3: 0.75%; Year 4: 1%). These freezes
and caps would begin after the current or most recent collective agreement
expires. So, in the case of the MGEU
Civil Service Master Agreement, the current agreement remains
in effect until expiry (March 29, 2019) and the
legislated wage cap would be implemented in the next collective agreement.
“This is difficult news for public sector workers who have already agreed to two years of wage freezes, said MGEU President Michelle Gawronsky. “Despite the government’s intent to impose legislation, our union remains open and committed to going to the bargaining table to negotiate a fair deal.”
The legislation does not impose some of the ideas that government has talked about recently in the media. Bill 28 for instance, does not:
- reopen existing contracts;
- force public workers to take unpaid days off; or
- change pension plans.
This legislation will apply to the civil service, government agencies, crown corporations, regional health authorities, child and family service agencies, universities, colleges, staff of the legislative assembly and its independent offices, school divisions, and the organizations listed here.
As well, with Bill 29, the government affirmed its desire to radically reduce the number of bargaining units in each health region and each health employer. They will appoint a commissioner to define the new bargaining units.
The Health Sector Bargaining Unit Review Act would also mean:
- representation votes would be held in multi-union bargaining sectors in each region;
- one collective agreement would exist for all employees in a specific health sector; and
- the Minister would establish employer councils to bargain on behalf of health care employers.
The MGEU will continue to work closely with other unions through the Manitoba Federation of Labour to put forward constructive alternatives to cuts and consult with legal representatives to ensure members’ rights are protected.
The union will keep members updated as further information on the ramifications of this proposed legislation become known.