Dear Premier Stefanson,

I am writing this open letter to call on you to reconsider the restrictive bargaining mandate your government has imposed on provincial employers during the current round of collective bargaining.

Wages across the Canadian economy have risen by 5.4% over the past year (Statistics Canada). Federal public service workers recently negotiated a four-year contract that included wage increases averaging 3% per year. In British Columbia, provincial civil servants recently negotiated wage increases averaging more than 4% per year over three years. 

These wage increases reflect the reality that the cost of living has been soaring. Workers are struggling to make ends meet. And employers are competing to recruit and retain workers.

Despite this reality, the Manitoba government continues to act as though the world has not changed. In the current round of bargaining, at provincial public sector bargaining table after bargaining table, our members face strikingly similar employer wage offers, averaging around 2% per year. It is very clear that your government has imposed a very restrictive wage mandate on employers across the provincial public sector. 

This provincial wage mandate is not just out of touch with the realities facing Manitoba workers trying to keep up with rising prices, but it is also preventing public sector employers from solving the serious staffing shortages that are undermining the quality of public services – in the civil service, for example, one in four positions are currently vacant. 

Accepting your government's wage mandate would mean that Manitoba's public services won't get fixed. Staffing shortages will get worse and Manitobans will continue to wait longer for less. This cannot happen.

You and your cabinet ministers recently received a 3.3% raise, and can look forward to projected increases of 3.6% next year, and another 3.6% the year after that. Like many Manitobans, our members are wondering how you can justify taking these very reasonable wage increases for yourself while offering provincial public sector workers much less.

Your pay increases are determined by a formula based on the five-year moving average of increases to Manitoba’s Consumer Price Index. This is a fair approach that links wage increases to the rising cost of living, while smoothing out peaks and valleys in the rate of inflation. In other words, you and your ministers get some protection against rising prices while the provincial budget is protected from sharp spikes in inflation. That’s fair. Public sector workers should be treated fairly too.

Unfortunately, your government’s wage mandate is preventing meaningful collective bargaining where creative wage increase formulas like the one used to determine your salary can be negotiated.

On behalf of MGEU members currently in negotiations, I am calling on you to reconsider your government’s restrictive wage mandate. Otherwise, promises to start fixing Manitoba’s public services will be empty and meaningless. 

And given that provincial public employers clearly have little room to bargain meaningfully, I respectfully request a meeting with you so that we can have a real discussion with someone who can change the course of bargaining. 

This meeting is particularly necessary given that I have been unable to get a response to my request to meet with the Honourable James Teitsma, your Minister Responsible for the Manitoba Public Service or the Honourable Cliff Cullen, Minister of Finance. I truly believe a meeting could make a positive difference at this critical moment in provincial labour relations.

Yours truly,

Kyle Ross
MGEU President