Next Steps on Bill 28 Court Ruling and MGEU Meetings: A letter from the MGEU President
Jul 09, 2020
Today, MGEU President Michelle Gawronsky sent the following update to all MGEU members about the union's next steps after the Bill 28 court ruling, MGEU meetings during the pandemic, and what to expect in the coming months.
Dear MGEU members,
With summer under way and many of you heading off on vacation, I want to give you a quick update on what is happening in our union.
COURT RULING AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT’S WAGE-FREEZE LAW: NEXT STEPS AND BARGAINING
Since June 22, when the Court of Queen’s Bench ruled in our favour that the Bill 28 wage freeze legislation was an unconstitutional violation of our members’ right to free and fair collective bargaining, we have been working with our lawyers to review the Judge’s 236-page ruling and determine next steps.
As part of the trial, the parties are returning to court to pursue additional remedies, such as damages and recovery of court costs. Our lawyers are preparing for these hearings and trying to secure dates for the fall.
The government has advised us that they are considering appealing the court ruling. They have not said anything more specific yet.
We understand that many members are eager to get on with negotiating a new contract without the unconstitutional constraints that Bill 28 had imposed on bargaining. Where Bill 28’s wage freezes and caps had been accepted with a conditional ratification ballot, we reserved the right to return to the bargaining table.
Our first step is to determine the best strategy for each group of members, on a case by case basis. We are beginning this work, in cooperation with bargaining committees and our lawyers. To achieve the best outcome for all of us, we need to proceed carefully, taking the time to do it right.
At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed many new challenges for bargaining, including restrictions on in-person meetings. We are developing protocols that would allow for bargaining proposal and bargaining meetings to resume while still protecting the health of our members, staff, and communities. And of course, with the pandemic situation evolving on a near-daily basis, any such plans will be dependent on the most current public health restrictions and guidance.
PANDEMIC IMPACT ON HOW WE SERVE MEMBERS
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, MGEU has adjusted how we serve members. Staff have continued their work on behalf of members from home. Some union meetings have been conducted using remote technologies (such as board and provincial officer meetings) or postponed. For a time we even made arrangements to continue operating our Member Resource Centre from the homes of our staff. Our offices may have been closed to visitors for a period, but our work representing members has continued.
These adjustments to keep MGEU serving members were critically important because the pandemic created so many new challenges for which members have needed the guidance and support of their union. Members have needed help ensuring appropriate COVID-19 health and safety protections in their workplaces. Members needed assistance working through the issues posed by working from home and the closure of schools and daycares. Members facing work reductions and layoffs needed representation. And members threatened by Premier Pallister’s push for cuts during the pandemic needed their union to make a strong case in public why his cuts would only make a difficult economic situation worse.
As Manitoba reopens and public health restrictions are relaxed, more MGEU staff are now able to work from our offices, and we are developing protocols for the resumption of some in-person member meetings.
MGEU’s meeting protocols will respect public health orders and advice, and will include strict risk mitigation measures, including physical distancing, to protect our members, staff, and communities. Where in-person meetings do resume, expect many changes in how they are conducted as we put health and safety first. In some cases, where feasible, we will still be using technology to conduct meetings remotely. Please watch our website for more details -- and because the public health situation can shift rapidly, protocols and plans will be subject to change!
One of the most challenging problems we are wrestling with is how to plan for our upcoming biennial Convention – previously scheduled for October 2020. Since the preceding Local meetings and Convention itself are how all of us as members elect our leadership and have a say in how our union is run, it’s vitally important we get ready to safely stage a convention as soon as public health restrictions and guidance will allow.
The first step towards a convention is for all union Locals to elect delegates and pass resolutions for consideration at convention. Our tentative working plan is to hold Local meetings for these purposes between September 1 and October 15, 2020. The meeting protocols referenced above will be implemented to ensure these Local meetings may proceed safely.
The next step in working towards convention is for all Locals to hold elections for Executive positions (President, Chief Steward, VP, Member-at-Large, and Stewards). Our tentative working plan is to hold these local election meetings between November 1 and December 15, 2020, and the new term of office for these positions will begin the day after convention. We will also use these Local election meetings to elect delegates to the next Manitoba Federation of Labour Convention, currently scheduled for May of 2021.
This tentative plan is, of course, entirely conditional on public health orders and guidance in effect this fall and winter. Everything is subject to change as the situation evolves.
Without question, the last four months have been deeply challenging for all of us -- and the fall ahead promises to be equally demanding of our resolve, patience, and resilience.
But even through the pandemic, together, we have accomplished much. We have successfully gone to court to have member rights respected, and we have won the support of so many Manitobans from all walks of life in resisting Premier Pallister’s heavy-handed onslaught against the important public services that we provide and Manitobans count on. I look forward to the months ahead with renewed vigour and hope.