Anti-labour Bills in Manitoba Pass Committee Hearings

Winnipeg – The Pallister Conservative government has pushed two anti-labour Bills through the committee stage and into Third Hearing, which could ultimately result in the passing of the legislation.

Bill 28 (Public Sector Sustainability Act) and Bill 29 (Health Care Bargaining Unit Review Act) were opposed by dozens of labour representatives and members of the public at Committee hearings that took place on the evening of May 8th.

Bill 28 imposes a four-year wage settlement on all public sector workers, freezing wages for two years, followed by sub-inflationary increases of 0.75% and 1% in the third and fourth year respectively.

Bill 29 drastically restructures health care bargaining units, reducing the number of health care collective agreements, forcing union representation votes, and imposes a commissioner with sweeping powers over health care bargaining.

CUPE’s Manitoba Regional Director Lee McLeod presented both verbal and written submissions in opposition to both Bills.

CUPE on Bill 28

“These hard-working Manitobans, who truly are the “front-lines” this government promised to protect, are angry and feel betrayed,” McLeod told the committee on Bill 28.

“It is apparent that this government is not interested in meaningful consultations with public sector unions, and that this government always intended to use legislation to circumvent workers constitutionally protected right to free and fair collective bargaining.”

CUPE has been working closely with the Manitoba Federation of Labour and other unions to oppose Bill 28 and Bill 29.

CUPE on Bill 29

Bill 29 was also discussed in a separate committee hearing, taking place at the same time down the hall.

“We believe that collaboration between health care unions and this government could produce a superior collective bargaining model that works better for government and health care workers alike”, McLeod told the committee.

“We urge this government to scrap Bill 29 and instead work with us to make a better system for both workers and patients. No one benefits from the disruption, costs, and uncertainly of forced representation votes – not patients, not workers, and not the health care system”.

CUPE’s May 8, 2017 submissions to the committees can be found here:

CUPE Submission on Bill 28
CUPE Submission on Bill 29

To learn more on how the legislative process works, and how Bills are introduced, debated, and passed, visit the Manitoba Legislative Assembly website

 

Kildonan Personal Care Centre Workers to Hold Info Pickets March 23

WINNIPEG – Kildonan Personal Care Centre workers – the women and men who look after elders with compassion and care every day – will be holding an information picket on Thursday, March 23, 2017.

Contract talks between Local 4860 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and Revera, the company that runs Kildonan PCC, broke down in late January over remaining bargaining items. The parties met in conciliation in February, but wages and benefits were not resolved.

CUPE Local 4860 members are asking for parity with other Revera personal care homes – the same wages and benefits.

WHO:             CUPE Local 4860 personal care centre employees

WHAT:            Information Picket

WHERE:        1970 Henderson Highway, at Bonner Avenue

WHEN:           Thursday, March 23, 2 pm until 6 pm

WHY:              Call for parity on wages and benefits at the bargaining table

“CUPE Local 4860 members do the same job as workers at other care centres,” said Dawn Sabeski, President of CUPE Local 4860. “Kildonan PCC employees caring for our elders deserve parity and fair wages.”

“Elders deserve great care and we want to do the best job we can for them. It’s important for us to be treated fairly so that we can take pride in our work and know that we are valued as much as employees in other personal care homes.”

The Canadian Union of Public Employees is Canada’s largest union representing more than a
half-million members. In Manitoba, CUPE represents approximately 26,000 members working in health care facilities, personal care homes, school divisions, municipal services, social services, child care centres, public utilities, libraries and family emergency services.

Member Update on Government’s Plans for Wage Freezes and Caps, Health Care Bargaining Units

Today, the Pallister government unveiled plans to make sweeping changes that affect CUPE members.

WAGES FREEZES AND CAPS

The Canadian Union of Public Employees Manitoba is disappointed to see the government introduce heavy-handed legislation that would bypass the bargaining table and impose four years of wage freezes and caps on public sector workers. All public sector workers, including in health care, education, and social services like child and family services, would be affected.  Public sector workers entering into new collective agreements would see no wage increase in years 1 and 2, with a .75% increase in year 3 and a 1% increase in year 4. Existing collective agreement are not affected.

These wage freezes and caps would put workers behind, as they fall below increases in the cost of living. They will apply to the thousands of public sector workers who previously showed their willingness to be part of the solution, by agreeing – at the bargaining table – to two years of frozen wages already.

We know that bargaining is the proven way to find solutions that work for both employers and workers. We’d much rather try to work things out together, by talking and compromising at the bargaining table.

CUPE and other public sector unions, along with the Manitoba Federation of Labour, are willing to come to the table and are prepared to work constructively with the government to find solutions that will protect public services, and strengthen Manitoba’s economy for all.

Balancing the budget should not come at the expense of the public services so many families count on or the people who provide them.

Despite repeatedly saying that “it’s all hands on deck,” Premier Pallister last year allowed himself and his entire cabinet a 20 per cent increase in pay over the previous government. Balancing the budget just doesn’t seem to include the Premier or his cabinet.

HEALTH CARE

The government also announced a total restructuring of health care bargaining units across Manitoba. The proposed legislation would establish one bargaining unit in each category of health care work, per health region (RHAs), plus Cancer Care Manitoba and Diagnostic Services Manitoba. A commissioner would oversee the reduction of health care bargaining units from 182 to less than 50.

All health care unions in Manitoba are facing the same challenges, and we are committed to working together.

CUPE will be working with the Manitoba Federation of Labour and other unions to analyze the new legislation, and we will continue to update members on the impact these changes may have on members.

We wish we could say that this won’t be a prolonged struggle, but we all know that it will be. Through it all, you can count on CUPE and the Manitoba Federation of Labour to keep the government’s feet to the fire and keep fighting for you and your family.

 

 

 

5 Reasons to resist unpaid days off

The Premier of Manitoba campaigned on protecting front line services and the workers who provide them. Now he’s attacking the public services he promised to protect.  His latest idea is legislating unpaid days off for public employees.

Unpaid days off aren’t new, they aren’t innovative, they aren’t worker friendly, and they’re bad for Manitobans and the economy.

Here’s why we should resist unpaid days off:

1. Pallister Has No Mandate to Impose Unpaid Days Off

Brian Pallister and the Progressive Conservatives repeatedly promised during the last election that they would protect public services and the people that provide them. After the election, Pallister publicly confirmed his commitment.

After less than a year as Premier, Pallister seems to have forgotten his public services promise.

Politicians are in positions of power. They have a responsibility to be honest with the people they represent, to keep their promises, and to be up-front about any proposed cuts to services before the election – not after. Breaking an election promise is the worst kind of politics.

2. Manitobans Need More Services, Not Less

Governments at all levels in Canada have tried to reduce government’s role as a provider of public services. Public services that the average person depends on have suffered, while corporate taxes and taxes on the wealthy have gone way down. CUPE members who deliver important public services know this all too well. Public infrastructure has been neglected, user fees added, and services cut.

Every day, CUPE members hear directly from frustrated citizens who want more, not less service.

Rather than cutting services, the government of Manitoba should be looking to improve public services!

3. Legislated Unpaid Days Off are a Violation of our Human Rights

The right to form and join a union is part of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms includes the rights of workers to join and form unions, to engage in free collective bargaining, and to go on strike.

Imposing unpaid days off through legislation circumvents and ignores the collective bargaining process, and violates our basic human rights.

Changes to collective agreements (group contracts) must be negotiated, not imposed. Neither unions nor governments can change collective agreements without the other’s consent.

Regardless of whether you personally like the idea of a reduced work week, any move by the government to impose unpaid days off should be treated as an attack on our rights as workers.

4. There is no Fiscal Crisis

The Pallister government has stated that Manitoba is in a fiscal crisis, yet this assertion is contradicted by almost every measure of the economy. Manitoba continues to be amongst the best economies in Canada, with relatively low unemployment and above-average economic growth. This is partly thanks to a diverse economy and government investment in public services and infrastructure. In fact, the Trudeau Liberals ran on a platform of using the “Manitoba formula” to kick-start the Canadian economy.

Pallister’s plan to pull Manitoba out of its deficit quickly will require big job cuts in the public service. This would result in a serious reduction of public services, pressure those same social and economic programs, and a shrinking provincial economy. It’s not worth it.

Manitoba does face a billion-dollar deficit, but context matters. As a percentage of the economy, the deficit in 2016 was smaller than it was five years earlier, smaller than it was in the early 1990s, and half of what it was in the 1980s. Is this a challenge? Sure. Is it a crisis? Not really.

Others will argue that every dollar we spend on interest is a dollar that can’t be spent on services. True, but today’s record-low interest rates mean that the cost of debt is low. The cost of borrowing has shrunk from 2% in 2003-4 to 1.28% of provincial GDP. (GDP is the Gross Domestic Product, or the total value of domestic goods and services, not including income invested from outside Canada.)

5. CUPE Members Cannot Afford Unpaid Days Off

There is a myth that public-sector workers are overpaid.

This is not the case. The average wage in Manitoba is $44,900. A living wage is $31,100/year for a single parent with one child in Winnipeg. A sampling of full-time starting wages for unionized workers in different sectors ranges from $20,000 per year for an Education Assistant to $37,000 for a Health Care Aide. Part-time and casual workers may earn far less.

In the 1990s, government-imposed unpaid days off resulted in a 5% reduction in take-home pay for government workers in Ontario, and a 4% reduction in Manitoba.

A plan to balance the provincial budget on the backs of workers earning modest incomes is wrong.

Better Solutions

So, what is the solution to Manitoba’s budgetary challenges?

Ironically, Brian Pallister was on the right track at one time. In 2016, the Premier promised to get the budget back to balance over eight years. This could still be done.

Of course, the provincial government could also introduce new tax brackets for higher income earners, raise corporate income taxes, work with the Federal government to close tax loopholes for the wealthy, or implement a carbon tax.  Pallister continues to ignore the revenues side of the ledger.

It’s time to remind Premier Brian Pallister to keep the public services promise.

 

Download (PDF, 502KB)

Statement on behalf of Manitoba’s public sector unions on consultations with government

Feb 10, 2017

At a meeting on January 5th, the Minister of Finance and officials invited Manitoba’s public sector unions to participate in what was referred to as a Fiscal Working Group with a mandate to explore solutions to returning the province’s budget to balance.

In the lead-up to the meeting, we put forward several questions to the Minister to better understand the government’s assumptions and fiscal outlook. The Pallister government’s 2016 budget was the first in many years to not include a five-year fiscal outlook, which would include assumptions and projections for key economic indicators.

On February 9th, one day prior to the first meeting of the Fiscal Working Group, government officials emailed the Manitoba Federation of Labour a letter (dated February 8th) to indicate that the Fiscal Working Group is no longer intended to consider options to improve the government’s fiscal situation, but rather, would focus only on the government’s narrow legislative intentions, which may include reduced worked weeks, predetermined wage settlements, changes to pensions and the re-opening of collective agreements.

By denying basic financial information and changing the parameters of any conversations with government, the Premier and Minister of Finance are preventing labour from participating in a meaningful consultation.

As Manitoba’s public sector unions, we want to work constructively with the province to find a balanced approach – that includes returning to balance over an eight-year period, as committed in the budget – without doing irreparable harm to our schools, hospitals and other public services.

But it seems Premier Pallister is more focused on cuts to public services and reopening signed contracts than protecting those services and the people who deliver them.

For more information, please contact:
The Manitoba Federation of Labour at 204-947-1400

Joint Statement on meeting with Finance Minister Friesen

Today, Manitoba’s largest public sector unions and the Manitoba Federation of Labour met with the Minister of Finance, at his request.

The meeting was the first of what we expect to be several face-to-face meetings. We are hopeful that future meetings will include the Premier and all of Manitoba’s public sector unions.

In the brief meeting, the Minister maintained the government’s focus on balancing the provincial budget and confirmed that, as reported in the media, they are considering wage freezes, reopening contracts and restructuring bargaining units, but did not provide any additional information.

We reminded the Minister of the Premier’s commitment to respect collective bargaining and protect and improve the public services that all families count on, while balancing the budget over a period of eight years.

Manitoba’s labour movement will continue to ask questions, seek clarification when needed, and always meet with the province in good faith.

Kevin Rebeck – Manitoba Federation of Labour
Kelly Moist – Canadian Union of Public Employees
Bob Moroz – Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals
Michelle Gawronsky – The Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union
Norm Gould – The Manitoba Teachers’ Society
Jeff Traeger – United Food and Commercial Workers Union

CUPE Local 2348 (Midwives) reach tentative agreement

Winnipeg – Midwives, represented by CUPE Local 2348, have voted in favour of a new collective agreement that helps to support midwifery services in Winnipeg.

“After a difficult round of bargaining, we are pleased that we have reached an agreement that all parties deem fair,” said Sheree Capar, CUPE National Representative. “It is our hope that this new agreement will help to recruit and retain midwives in Manitoba.”

Following a strong strike mandate from Midwives on March 11, 2016, a meeting took place with a provincial conciliation officer on March 17, 2016, and an acceptable package was presented. Members of CUPE Local 2348 (Midwives) held a vote March 18-21 2016, to accept the new collective agreement, thereby averting any strike action.

“The provincial government and Winnipeg Regional Health Authority have acknowledged the value of midwifery services in Manitoba, and we will work with them to promote this important health care profession” said Capar. “There continues to be a growing demand from Manitoba families for midwifery, and we are encouraged that the province is working to address this demand”.

The provincial government recently announced $800,000 in new funding towards midwifery training programs in Manitoba, which will help train new midwives to meet the needs of Manitoba families.

“Midwives want to convey the message that midwifery services are available to all Manitobans, regardless of family background or income,” said Capar. “With this new contract, our midwives can get back to helping expectant families with prenatal and postnatal supports, as well as safe deliveries!”

The new contract for midwives will move the profession closer in line with other jurisdictions, making it easier for the WRHA to retain both existing and newly trained midwives in Winnipeg. CUPE Local 2348 worked alongside the Midwives Association of Manitoba (MAM) as well as countless supporters, including families who have used midwifery services, to highlight the value of midwifery in the province and to work towards equitable compensation.

 

CUPE Local 2348 (Midwives) reject employer’s offer, move closer to strike

Winnipeg – Midwives represented by CUPE Local 2348 have voted to reject their employer’s most recent offer, following a ratification vote held on March 10 and 11.

“Midwives in Winnipeg are sending a clear message that more support is needed for their profession,” said Sheree Capar, CUPE National Representative. “We are falling further behind other jurisdictions in terms of compensation, and the most recent offer doesn’t do enough to catch up”.

At a meeting with a provincial conciliation officer held on March 9, the employer represented by the Provincial Labour Relations Secretariat offered a package that would not adequately address the growing gap between midwifery in Manitoba and other provinces.

“There are countless Manitoba families on the wait list for midwifery services – the demand is there” said Capar. “We need to both train and retain midwives, and ensuring a competitive compensation package is crucial to serving this demand from the public”.

Midwifery in Manitoba has been in the spotlight recently for the shortage of trained midwives in the province. The Provincial Government built a new Birth Centre in Winnipeg, and recently increased funding for midwifery training, but demand far outpaces the supply.

Studies across Canada and the world show that midwifery is an essential part of the health care system, providing professional maternal care to families in all segments of society.

“We have heard from midwives directly that they are choosing other provinces or other health care professions,” said Capar. “Manitoba cannot afford to lose any more midwives, and the WRHA needs to act now to hold on to those we have!”

Midwives in Manitoba fall under Essential Services Legislation, so in the event of a strike no expectant mother will be put at risk – deliveries will still occur throughout the strike and each woman’s care plan will be reviewed and referred as necessary.

“We know families support our members, and we hope that this can be resolved as quickly as possible,” said Capar.

CUPE Local 2348 hopes to meet again with the employer representatives, highlighting the new strike mandate, before setting a specific strike date, which could be set within weeks. A strike date has not been set.