Unions file court injunction against Pallister’s wage freeze bill.

Today CUPE, through the Manitoba Federation of Labour’s Partnership to Defend Public Services filed a court injunction to the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench against Pallister’s Bill 28, the “Public Services Sustainability Act”.

Terry Egan (second, back row) with other labour leaders.

Bill 28 is also known widely as the public sector wage freeze bill.

“CUPE is taking concrete action against Bill 28,” says Lee McLeod, Regional Director of CUPE. “By filing an injunction we are sending a clear message that we believe the wage freeze legislation is unconstitutional, and must be stopped”.

Bill 28 was tabled on March 20, 2017 by the Pallister government, and passed in June.

Bill 28 has not yet been enacted into law, which means this injunction could prevent the Bill from actually taking effect. The court injunction process may take a number of months to complete.

“We will fight Pallister’s attacks on families in the courts of law, in the halls of power, and in the streets” says Terry Egan, President of CUPE Manitoba.

“This government will no longer be able to pass laws that hurt Manitoba families without a fight”.

For more information on the Partnership to defend Public Services’ efforts to fight Bill 28, visit the MFL’s page.

Social Impact Bonds wrong direction for Manitoba’s social services – CUPE

Today the Manitoba government announced the opening of a request for proposals for Social Impact Bonds, a scheme in which private companies profit off social service delivery.

“There was a time when the private sector would simply make philanthropic donations as part of their corporate responsibility to the community” says Terry Egan, President of CUPE Manitoba. “Social Impact Bonds take that corporate philanthropy and turn it into a private money-making scheme”.

While Pallister claims that Social Impact Bonds would foster “private-sector innovation,” these companies will seek to invest in only the non-government agencies that would see profitable outcomes, rather than programs that seek to address long-term root causes of many of societies deep and complex issues, including poverty.

“Social Impact Bonds are like P3s, for social services. We have the in-house expertise we need to deliver social services right here in Manitoba,” said Egan. “There’s no need to outsource the financing, planning and evaluation of social programs to consultants and corporations”.

For more information on Social Impact Bonds, see these helpful links:

Profiting form children: a child care social impact bond in Chicago

https://cupe.ca/profiting-children-child-care-social-impact-bond-chicago

CUPE Table Talk: Social Impact Bonds: The next horizon of provatization

https://cupe.ca/social-impact-bonds-next-horizon-privatization

CUPE Economy at Work: Economics 101 – Decoding Social Impact Bonds

https://cupe.ca/economics-101-decoding-social-impact-bonds

Public Sector Unions File for Injunction Against Heavy-Handed New Labour Law

Via Manitoba Federation of Labour

Today the Partnership to Defend Public Services, representing more than 110,000
Manitoba workers, filed for an injunction against the so-called Public Services Sustainability Act,
recently passed by the Pallister government.

“The Pallister government has passed a new law that fundamentally undermines collective bargaining
rights. It’s unfair and it’s unconstitutional,” said Manitoba Federation of Labour President Kevin Rebeck,
on behalf of the Partnership.

“We are launching a full constitutional challenge and we are seeking an
injunction, to prevent this new law from being proclaimed until after a court ruling.

The Partnership today filed a statement of claim in the Court of Queen’s Bench challenging the
constitutionality of the Public Services Sustainability Act. The action includes a request for an injunction
that would prevent the government from proclaiming the Act.

Rebeck said that for months public sector unions made every effort to engage in a constructive way
with government but that the process was unproductive.

He also noted that government:
• Refused to answer any questions including those about their basic objectives or financial
assumptions.
• Provided no feedback on proposals from public sector unions.
• Made no amendments to Bill 28, despite concerns raised by labour at committee hearings.

“Manitoba’s public-sector unions came to the table with practical ideas to help reduce the deficit, but it’s
clear that the Pallister government was never serious about consulting with anyone,” said Rebeck.

“This comes right on the heels of major layoffs and cuts to healthcare and other services people count
on. Brian Pallister can use his majority in the legislature to get his way, but we’ll be there to pushback
every step of the way in court.”

Pallister government passes reckless legislation – CUPE

Winnipeg – With the conclusion of the 41st Legislature, the Pallister government is willfully passing legislation that will disrupt health care, hurt working families, and will leave Manitobans with more questions than answers, says CUPE Manitoba.

“Pallister’s government is willfully passing irresponsible and ill-conceived legislation that leaves more questions than answers,” says Terry Egan, President of CUPE Manitoba.

Terry Egan, CUPE Manitoba President

“This whole session the government has acted like amateurs by tabling ill-conceived legislation, and Manitobans will suffer because of it”.

In a sitting that lasted past 3 am, the government passed legislation including Bill 28 (Public Services Sustainability Act) which imposes wage freezes on public sector workers, Bill 29 (Health Sector Bargaining Unit Review Act) which forces union representation votes in health care, and Bill 19 (Efficiency Manitoba Act) which carves PowerSmart out of Manitoba Hydro, among other legislation.

“Is Bill 28 constitutional? Is Bill 29 necessary? Is Bill 19 really efficient? We believe the answer to these questions is ‘no’,” said Egan.

“Rather than discussing these issues with workers, this government has neglected it’s responsibility to negotiate, and has instead opted to push through reckless legislation just for the sake of pushing it through.”

CUPE, along with the Manitoba Federation of Labour has expressed numerous concerns that Bill 29 will unnecessarily disrupt health care services, and that Bill 28 is unconstitutional because the government refused to meaningfully negotiate at the bargaining table.

Bill 19 was filibustered by a Conservative MLA who, along with CUPE and Opposition parties raised concerns that the legislation was unnecessary.

The government also made sweeping changes to health care, including mandating significant cuts, closing ERs and other programs, cancelling important community funding, and more.

“The government uses their majority to pass all their legislation no matter what people say, but they should never forget that the people are watching, and we’re taking notes,” said Egan.

“We’re putting this government on notice that if they continue on this path of cuts, reckless lawmaking, and lack of respect for dialogue, then they’ll have more trouble down the road”.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees is Canada’s largest union representing over 643,000 members.

In Manitoba, CUPE represents approximately 25,000 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.

Accountability and Transparency for P3 privatization model is not “red tape”, it’s an essential public protection

CUPE MB: Pallister’s proposal to repeal P3 Legislation is a step backwards

Basic public consultations, accountability and transparency are needed, not “red tape”

Winnipeg – The Canadian Union of Public Employees Manitoba has serious concerns about legislation introduced today by the Pallister government to repeal a law that provides basic measures for accountability and transparency when it comes to public-private partnerships.

Section 14 of the Pallister government’s Bill 24- The Red Tape Reduction and Government Efficiency Act proposes to eliminate the existing Public-Private Partnerships Transparency and Accountability Act, in its entirety.

The P3 Transparency and Accountability Act contains basic but essential protections for public investments and access to services,” said Kelly Moist, President of CUPE Manitoba. “How can Premier Pallister call the P3 Act “red tape”? It provides minimum provisions for a fair process on P3 projects, most of which involve tens or hundreds of millions of dollars and long-term contracts.”

“P3 projects are controversial for a reason,” added Moist. “These projects often take public funds and oversight and turn them over to a for-profit entity. Why would any government want to repeal a law that protects the public interest and public funds?”

CUPE has raised concerns in the past about P3s. The existing legislation only provides basic protections and access to information. In one case in Portage la Prairie, for example, CUPE raised concerns that a wastewater treatment plant renovation and expansion worth hundreds of millions of dollars would cost the public more through a P3, key financial information was not made available to the public, and there was no serious effort to engage in public consultations. CUPE is concerned that P3 projects routinely have poor results on every measure of public interest, from quality of service to timelines and cost.

“The people of Manitoba have always been on the hook for any problems resulting from using the P3 model for public projects. If the P3 Act is eliminated, we will be on the hook and blindfolded,” concluded Moist.

“If Premier Pallister wants to show Manitobans he is committed to his promise to protect public services, he will cancel his plans to repeal The P3 Transparency and Accountability Act, and strengthen it instead.”

– 30 –

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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.

 

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Members’ Provincial Election Guide 2016

Consult this handy guide to find out what’s at stake for CUPE members across Manitoba and in your sector. The guide also includes suggestions for questions to ask candidates in the lead-up to the April 19 election. Contact CUPE-MB to order paper copies.

Download (PDF, 543KB)

Why CUPE supports the NDP

Many CUPE members often ask “why does CUPE support the NDP?”.

The answer is quite simple.

In 1956, tired of Conservative and Liberal rule, workers in the Canadian Labour Congress and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation came together and asked “why isn’t there a party for working people?”

The NDP was created from those conversations in 1961 as a party for working people. This is why many unions across Canada support the NDP.

But to say we are simply a “supporter” of the NDP is insufficient – we were a founding partner of the NDP.

At the 2015 CUPE Manitoba Convention, workers from across the province once again pledged support to our party, the NDP.

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Letter to CUPE members re: April 19 Provincial Election

Kelly-Moist-2-2013Dear Sisters and Brothers:

On April 19th Manitobans will vote in the provincial election to determine who will lead our province for the next four years. Elections are important for all citizens, as CUPE members, 25,000 strong, delivering needed public services throughout Manitoba.

Who governs our province matters a great deal.

The NDP has governed our province since October 1999, and many CUPE members, have not worked under any other government and don’t know the struggles that many CUPE members faced in the 1990’s when our right to free collective bargaining was taken away by legislation and all citizens lost when our former crown corporation, the Manitoba Telephone System was privatized.

The NDP record over the past 16 years has not been perfect. Like others we in Manitoba have felt the effects of the 2008 global recession and we have had some tough rounds of bargaining and other important issues to deal with.

It is inevitable that no matter who is in office, we as public employees will face challenges, and our job is to speak up and to lobby and advocate hard on behalf of the members we serve. Unlike many of our sisters and brothers across Canada, we have had a decent relationship with the NDP government. In other provinces CUPE members have faced legislation attacking our right to free collective bargaining.

We have not faced provincial privatization nor has Manitoba gone down the path of so-called Public-Private-Partnerships. At each of our CUPE Manitoba conventions since spring 2000 we have had the Premier in attendance to meet and speak to us. There are CUPE regions in Canada where they have never had a Premier speak to them and they have no positive things to report on in terms of their relations with their provincial government.

The purpose of this communication is to share information with you and to ask that you share the attached bulletin with your members. We all benefit when members exercise their right to vote and when they make an informed decision.

Thank you for your leadership and your activism, it makes a difference. On April 19th we have a choice to make, and delegates to our 2015 Division Convention decided that we want to continue to build our province with quality public services by re-electing the NDP.

I would be pleased to attend your local’s membership meeting or to meet with you directly to discuss this matter. Remember, together we can make a difference on April 19th.

 

In Solidarity,

Kelly Moist

President, CUPE Manitoba