A new CCPA report released today detailing how more and more services are being privatized at Manitoba Infrastructure (MI) and the Vehicle and the Equipment Management Agency (VEMA) is raising serious concerns for the safety and integrity of Manitoba’s infrastructure network.

“The government is moving ahead with infrastructure changes that have proven unsafe in other jurisdictions,” said MGEU President Michelle Gawronsky. “Private contractors in neighbouring provinces have been shown to cut corners and put public safety at risk.”

The report follows a departmental review completed by external consulting corporation PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC), who were contracted to develop options and recommendations for “Alternative Service Delivery”— code words for privatization.

One of the report's authors, Jesse Hajer, said, “According to the employees interviewed, the cuts and contracting out taking place in Manitoba Infrastructure and VEMA are significantly compromising the ability of these workers to do their jobs effectively and maintain important provincial assets at acceptable service levels.”

Hard Infrastructure, Hard Times Report

The report echoes what the MGEU has been saying about MI/VEMA privatization for years and highlights how public services in MI/VEMA are being dismantled through:

  • Contracting out snow clearing on roadways;
  • Privatization of road maintenance;
  • Outsourcing heavy equipment maintenance;
  • Aggressive reduction in the number of employees in MI/VEMA through attrition and not recalling seasonal members — MI alone has seen their workforce drop by 636 employees;
  • Consolidation and centralization of highways yards and other regional services.

Hajer said that according to the vast majority of workers, job quality, safety, efficiency, value-for-money, and the integrity of their workplaces are being compromised, and morale appears to be at an all-time low.

“Members believe that the government is pursuing a politically-led strategy by starving the public sector, refusing to fill vacancies, and eliminating any kind of training and performance planning,” he said, adding that the workers who were surveyed in their research have serious concerns about the future of MI and the move to more private service delivery.

Results of the members surveyed showed that:

  • 85% do not believe the private sector would perform their unit's tasks in a more efficient manner;
  • 73% believe that the proposed changes will lead to increased costs and reduced value;
  • 55% indicated public safety would be compromised if services are privatized.
This takes a toll on morale, and members’ ability to feel they’re delivering the kinds of service that Manitobans deserve.

Gawronsky said the comments from one member who works in snow clearing sent chills down her spine: "when you’re on the road yourself and you see a bunch of wrecks on the highway and ambulances and stuff, it’s a pretty hard thing to take home knowing what could have been done better.”

“The study released today is a huge caution flag,” said Gawronsky. “Members are warning this government that the privatization road they’re going down will either increase costs to Manitobans or sacrifice road safety in our province.”

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