The following bargaining update was emailed to MGEU Civil Service members earlier today:As you know, the Civil Service collective agreement expired in March, and bargaining proposals were exchanged with the employer, the Province of Manitoba, 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, we 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.
Our 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. After all, 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 has been disingenuous and disrespectful to Civil Service members, and has made meaningful discussions impossible.
For these reasons, as we communicated in July, your 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. Your 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, our union began working with legal counsel to prepare our presentation on behalf of all MGEU Civil Service members.
However, in recent weeks, the MGEU was shocked to learn that Minister Scott Fielding, who is responsible for the Civil Service, is refusing to appoint an arbitration panel, 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 your legal right to arbitration, which is why we are left with no choice but to go to court to seek an order for Minister Fielding and his government to follow the law. We will be pursuing this matter in court in the coming weeks.
Although we are disheartened by the disrespect the Province has shown for Civil Service members, our union remains open to returning to the bargaining table if the Province is willing to begin fair negotiations and come clean about its intentions regarding wages and benefits. Otherwise, we remain committed to pursuing a fair contract through the arbitration process established by law.
While we pursue arbitration, the MGEU continues to work with the Partnership to Defend Public Services to challenge the constitutionality of Bill 28 and its heavy-handed wage freezes. The case will go to trial, beginning on November 18, 2019.
We will keep you updated as these efforts continue to unfold.
Your MGEU Civil Service Bargaining Committee