Pallister’s Greatest Hits on Working Families

The provincial election campaign has begun! Brian Pallister is breaking the rules on election dates and forcing a snap election one year earlier than set in law.

The good news? On September 10, we will have the chance to get rid of Brian Pallister and his anti-labour government, whose cuts and policies have been a disaster for working families in Manitoba.

The Pallister government has done so much damage to working families in three years that it can sometimes be hard to keep track, so we have compiled a Top 10 list to refresh your memory:

  1. Attacked collective bargaining:

Manitoba workers have the right to negotiate fair contracts with their employers. But in 2017 the Pallister government attacked that right for 120,000 public-sector workers by bringing in heavy-handed legislation that sets wage freezes in law for two years, followed by minimal increases of 0.75 and 1 per cent in the third and fourth years of a contract. Manitoba’s labour movement is taking the Pallister government to court over this unconstitutional legislation, but voting them out on September 10 would be a much quicker way to get rid of this law and let Manitoba’s dedicated public-sector workers get back to the bargaining table.

  1. Made it harder to join a union by eliminating card check:

Brian Pallister and his government can’t stand unions because they know that unions are one of the best checks against their plans for cuts and privatization of services. Time and time again, they have shown they are firmly on the side of their corporate friends, not working people. That is why one of their first acts in government was to make it harder for workers to decide to join unions by signing a union card. By getting rid of the card check system, Pallister is forcing workers to vote two times, instead of just one, allowing more time for employer interference and intimidation.

  1. Created total chaos in our health care system:

Health care is on the minds of many voters these days, and for good reason – the Pallister government has created chaos in our health care system, through cuts, emergency room closures, and their unwillingness to listen to front-line workers who know how the system works. They’ve closed both the Concordia and Seven Oaks ERs well before originally planned because they no longer had enough staff to operate. And health care workers are facing mounting stress due to mandatory overtime, unsafe staffing levels, and this government’s misguided plans. Look at the damage they’ve done to health care in just three years, imagine what they with another four. Let’s not give them the chance.

  1. Legislated the minimum wage at poverty levels:

No one should work full-time and live in poverty. But that is exactly what is happening to thousands of workers right now in Manitoba, because the Pallister government is keeping the minimum wage at poverty levels.

Contrary to the myths, most minimum wage workers are adults, and the majority are women. Thousands of families are forced to make tough choices between paying the rent and buying groceries, because our minimum wage isn’t enough to allow people to make ends meet, even with a full-time job.

Pallister has put Manitoba’s poverty-level minimum wage in legislation, and capped any increases to a maximum of inflation, guaranteeing that minimum wage earners will never reach or exceed the poverty line.

  1. Weakened workplace health and safety protections:

All workers deserve to be safe on the job, and to come home to their families and loved ones. That’s why our labour movement has pushed to make Manitoba’s workplace safety and health laws some of the strongest in the country. But the Pallister government is weakening health and safety protections instead of making them stronger.

They’ve made deep cuts to workplace health and safety enforcement, meaning there will be less focus on keeping people safe on the job, and they have eliminated the minister’s advisory council on health and safety and the Brandon and District Worker Advocacy Office.

Pallister has ignored the advice of labour (and even business) and set the minimum working age at 13 years old, meaning kids can get permits to work in Manitoba a full-year younger than kids in Ontario and Saskatchewan can.

He’s lowered the standards for hearing testing on the job, even though hearing loss is one of the most common workplace injuries. And his government is even talking about watering down Manitoba’s standards for protecting workers from harmful chemicals.

  1. Failed working families looking for child care:

Parents are facing unnecessary stress because affordable, high quality child care is so hard to find. This makes it harder for parents – especially women – to get back to paid work, and it hurts our economy.

The Pallister government is failing hard-working families:

  • Wait lists are at record highs, and convenient child care options are hard to find.
  • Child care fees are putting a squeeze on household budgets.
  • Poor wages and working conditions are making it difficult to recruit and retain early childhood educators.
  1. Privatization of public services:

We all know how much Conservatives love to privatize public services. If there is a chance to line the pockets of their corporate friends, they’ll jump at the opportunity.

Despite evidence that privatizing air services will compromise safety and quality, the Pallister government has privatized provincial water bombers and the Lifeflight air ambulances.

Now, they are looking at privatizing more liquor sales and have even brought in two architects of the privatization of BC Hydro to look at what they can do to Manitoba Hydro. We can’t give the Pallister government the chance to privatize Manitoba Hydro like the Conservatives did with MTS.

  1. Unfair labour practice at the University of Manitoba:

In 2016, the Pallister government directed the University of Manitoba to commit unfair labour practices in its negotiations with the University of Manitoba Faculty Association. As a result, the Manitoba Labour Board ordered the U of M to pay up to $2.4 million in damages and issue a formal apology for its actions.

While UMFA came to the table prepared to work out a fair deal that focused on providing the best possible education to U of M students, the University followed the Pallister government’s orders and forced faculty out on the picket lines, disrupting student schedules, and postponing exams.

  1. Underfunded education:

The Pallister government has continually underfunded our K – 12 education system, meaning there are not enough resources for students and teachers. Class sizes are going up, and it is only a matter of time before the Pallister government sets its sights on education restructuring, doing the same to schools and education workers as it has to hospitals and health care workers.

They are also making life more expensive for post-secondary students and their families by jacking up tuition while cutting back on funding to universities and colleges. You can’t build opportunities for young people here at home by putting education and training opportunities out of reach for working families.

  1. Changed election laws to benefit Conservatives:

The Pallister government has made a number of undemocratic changes to Manitoba’s election laws to help their party. They have made it harder to vote for Manitoba citizens who do not appear on the voters list and who already face a number of barriers to obtaining government issued identification.

They have restricted the ability for concerned groups and stakeholders to raise issues during the campaign period. Election campaigns are a time to raise the things that are important to working families, to Manitobans. We believe that before Manitobans go to the polls, they should have an idea where all parties stand on the issues that matter to them.

Finally, the Pallister government has made it easier for their wealthy friends to influence the political system by raising the personal donation limit to $5,000 and gutting public financing for all political parties.

A healthy democracy is based on fairness and equality. Unfortunately, Brian Pallister only makes decisions in the interest of his party and its corporate friends.

Pallister’s future plans:

The Pallister government has already signalled it will be making more decisions that will hurt working families if they are re-elected.

This summer, they announced that they want to make changes to Manitoba’s pension system but they will be keeping them secret from Manitobans until after the election. Proposals like loosening unlocking provisions and ending the long-established principle of universal participation appear to be on the table.

It is also troubling that they made this announcement right before they called an early election. Their refusal to provide any details through the tabling of legislation means that Manitobans will not get to see the specifics of their plan for pensions before they cast their ballots this fall. All workers deserve to be able to retire from working life with dignity and financial security. Voters should have a clear understanding of the Pallister government’s plan for their pensions before they go to the polls.

They have also pledged to bring back legislation to ban Project Labour Agreements (PLAs) if they win re-election. We know that PLAs deliver high quality and good wages that support local jobs. These agreements have been used on major infrastructure projects since the 1960s, consistently delivering great value for Manitobans. But Brian Pallister and his government refuse to let the facts get in the way of their ideological agenda.

In Solidarity,
Kevin Rebeck

President of the Manitoba Federation of Labour

A message for CUPE members, August 11, 2019

 

Manitoba Throne Speech opens door to further privatization

The Canadian Union of Public Employees – Manitoba is deeply concerned that the November 21 Speech from the Throne further opens the doorway to privatization of public services and programs, particularly services for children.

“The Pallister government has spent the past year throwing our health care system into chaos, and introducing privatization schemes like P3 Schools and Social Impact Bonds,” says Terry Egan, President of CUPE Manitoba.

“This government seems more concerned about their ideology than what is best for Manitobans, and today’s Throne Speech continues down that path.”

Since last year’s Throne Speech, the Pallister government has rolled out its plan to close Emergency Rooms, cut funding to health authorities province-wide, introduced Public-Private Partnership (P3s) schemes to schools in Winnipeg and Brandon, and pursued Social Impact Bonds – a way for the private sector to garner profit from public social services.

Today’s 2017 Throne Speech further reinforces the government’s plan to pursue the dangerous path of privatization, especially in services for children. Meanwhile the government has eliminated transparency and accountability legislation for P3s.

“This government is introducing a Social Impact Bond in our child welfare system, and P3s for our schools, but has never had any open discussions on if these models even work,” said Egan.

“We know there are serious concerns about Social Impact Bonds and P3s, but the government is pushing through anyways, it’s irresponsible and ideological.”

While CUPE recognizes the need for improving access to child care in Manitoba, the government’s plans to provide incentives to the private sector to build more private child care spots is not in the best interest of Manitoba families.

“We need more public spaces and facilities,” said Egan. “Going down the path of subsidizing more private for-profit day care is the wrong direction. The government should instead be supporting non-profit community and school based child care.”

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.

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.

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