MGEU's 66th Convention - the Presidential Address
MGEU President Michelle Gawronsky - Convention 2021
Oct 20, 2021
“I am very proud to stand before you virtually and report what we’ve accomplished together as a union over the last three years. Just like so many meetings since the pandemic hit, this virtual gathering is all about getting together to get the job done, no matter what.”
- Michelle Gawronsky
MGEU President Michelle Gawronsky kicked off the union’s 66th Convention – MGEU Online 2021 – Stronger Together Presidential Address this morning with a video showcasing MGEU members and activists who overcame so much to keep Manitoba moving during the pandemic.
“Sometimes it’s hard for me not to think about these years as nothing but big “P” problems. First we had Pallister – then along came the pandemic. I know it’s not quite that simple – many of the issues we have faced, and are facing, are multi-faceted and ongoing and the ways that we are standing up and rallying the fight are multi-faceted and ongoing too,” she said.
Gawronsky’s key message shared the MGEU’s challenges over the past three years, and recognized that there have been moments of true solidarity, and also of utter frustration while dealing with the Pallister government, its privatization schemes, and a global pandemic.
“With our mission – Putting People First! -- as a foundation, we managed to forecast, take quick action, and pivot accordingly,” Gawronsky said. “MGEU has continued to mount challenge after challenge when it comes to privatization, closures, and cuts...harmful legislation that actually prohibited our ability to make progress at the bargaining table, or as a labour movement in general...and safety and health on-the-job...an issue that’s far broader than COVID testing and office hygiene right now.”
She mentioned several public lobbying campaigns that gave MGEU members a strong voice since last Convention, including:
· Re-launching Keeping Liquor Public, with new online ads, pointing out that public serves us better and just how important it is that the revenue from public Liquor Marts stays here in Manitoba to pay for things like health care, schools, and roads.
· Commissioning an independent report (“Hard Infrastructure, Hard Times”) that exposed ways in which the Vehicle and Equipment Management Agency and the Infrastructure department are being starved of workers to justify privatizing these services.
· In partnership with the Canadian Wilderness Society, launching Defend Our Parks, an online petition pushing back against the government hand-over of St. Ambroise Provincial Park to a private business.
· Continuing the fight against Bill 28 (the Pallister government’s legislation to impede collective bargaining) with a coalition of unions under the Manitoba Federation of Labour (Partnership to Defend Public Services).
· Airing “People Behind the Public” – a TV and online advertising campaign showing MGEU members delivering a wide range of vital public services and made it clear that Manitobans priorities were no longer being reflected in this government’s actions.
· Launching “Healthy Minds at Work”– a long-term project to create change, and start conversations about workplace mental health and how employers can, and must, promote better mental health on the job.
· In partnership with UFCW 832, launching “Not Just a Job”, a joint online advertising campaign on behalf of those underpaid and undervalued members who support our most vulnerable Manitobans.
Gawronsky reminded delegates that not even a global emergency like the pandemic -- arguably the most important time to invest in public services –- has stopped the bleeding. In fact, the Pallister government used the pandemic as an opportunity to justify a plan for mass layoffs in the Civil Service. “Even during a pandemic we managed to launch a province-wide radio and on-line advertising campaign with our message that mass layoffs and cuts are wrong for Manitoba families who count on public services, wrong for our members working on the front lines and behind the scenes to keep our province running, and wrong for our already struggling economy.”
“Through the big P problems and everything else in between, we have found ways to come together and bring our collective strength to bear. As we look to the next few years, this should give each of us great hope. Solidarity will bring us strength...we are the MGEU!”