Pallister Government Introduces Changes to Public Service Act
Dec 03, 2019
Yesterday the Manitoba government introduced legislation to change the Public Service Act – proposed changes which, in some cases, would weaken the rights of MGEU members.
The proposed new legislation will establish a Public Service Commission, led by a public service commissioner. This would replace the Civil Service Commission and the Civil Service Commission Board.
As those changes imply, the Act would now cover the entire public service in three distinct categories:
- core public service — government department employees and senior leadership;
- broader public service — Crown corporations, health organizations, post-secondary institutions, school districts and divisions, and other organizations included in the government's financial reports;
- allied public service — staff for the Assembly offices and the constituency offices of members of the Assembly, staff for the officers of the Legislature and political staff.
The government says the proposed changes will “modernize” the legislation and put added focus on “maintaining an efficient, safe and harassment-free workplace,” which MGEU President, Michelle Gawronsky says is welcome news.
However, she also says that other, much less publicized, pieces of the legislation raise significant red flags for MGEU civil service members. In particular, the legislation will eliminate provisions in the Civil Service Act for the appointment of an arbitration board, and for the establishment of a Joint Council.
“At a time when the government is trampling on civil service members’ collective bargaining rights, the need for our union to have access to an arbitration panel – an independent third party – to reach a fair contract couldn’t be more clear. By eliminating our access to arbitration, the government will be able to abuse its power without the prospect of an independent third party having the ability to determine a fair contract. If that’s their plan I’d say that Manitobans would see nothing ‘modern’ about changing this legislation. In fact, I’d say it’s draconian.”
Gawronsky also says the elimination of the Joint Council is another big step backwards for a government that claims it is working to open lines of communication with its workers.
“The Joint Council has been an extremely important way to open lines of communication between the government and their employees, by helping workers raise concerns through their union,” she says. “By eliminating this council, the government is effectively proving they do not want to have open communication with employees. It’s very disappointing.”
Gawronsky says the union will continue to examine the legislation and has forwarded it to legal counsel to further review all of the details.