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.”

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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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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

Manitoba provincial election: What’s at stake for CUPE members?

Today the Premier of Manitoba officially dropped the writ, beginning a month-long election that will determine the next government of Manitoba on April 19.

But what does this election mean for CUPE members?

The Conservatives and Liberals want to cut jobs, privatize services, and reverse the gains we have made as workers under the NDP.

While election platforms will be rolled out throughout the campaign, we have already seen overtures made by the Conservatives and Liberals that will affect our members.

This is a brief overview of what’s at stake for CUPE members in Manitoba:

  • School Sector workers: the Conservatives have promised not to cut teaching jobs, but don’t rule out funding cuts to schools. Funding cuts to schools mean School Boards will look to our support staff members and programs for “savings”.

The Liberals have announced that they too will find millions in “savings”, but haven’t yet said where they will cut. Liberal governments in other provinces have pushed school support staff on strike with layoffs and funding cuts.

  • Child Care workers: the Conservatives have openly discussed creating more private child care centres across the province. Private centres mean higher costs for parents, lower quality, and cut corners. The more private centres the Conservatives build, the less support public centres will receive by government, driving down wages for our members.The Liberals recently announced their child care plan, which is contingent on funding from the Federal government, and has very few details.
  • Social Services workers: Conservatives have indicated they want to privatize social services by introducing Social Impact Bonds (SIBs). SIBs allow big multinational corporations to “sponsor” a program, and will receive a “return on investment” if the program succeeds. This would certainly affect our members as government funding is cut.

In fact, the last time the Pallister Conservatives were in power in Manitoba, they cut millions of funding to social service agencies, including many where CUPE members work today.In other provinces, Liberal governments have cut social services to the core.

  • Health Care workers: When the Conservatives were last in power, Brian Pallister was a Cabinet Minister and he cut health care jobs. Many CUPE members remember the impact of these cuts.The Conservatives today are no different. They have already discussed finding ways to reduce the workforce in order to “save money”.

In Saskatchewan and Alberta conservative governments have privatized laundry services and cut jobs. The Alberta Conservatives even wanted to introduce fees for health care services. Albertans had enough, and voted in an NDP government.

In Ontario and BC, Liberal governments have found “savings” off the backs of workers. In BC, laundry services have been contracted out resulting in job cuts and pay cuts. Liberals in Manitoba would surely follow that lead.

  • Municipal workers: Pallister’s Conservatives have a policy on the books to immediately rescind Manitoba’s groundbreaking Public Private Partnership Transparency (P3) legislation. By doing this they will eliminate accountability and transparency for P3s, which take away jobs from public sector workers, and are far more costly than traditional procurement.

Conservatives will also make sure that new infrastructure is owned and operated by private companies (through P3s), rather than municipal governments.

That means there will be less “need” for public sector workers like you, and it will likely result in downsizing and contracting out.Liberal governments have also promoted the use of P3s., especially in Ontario and the east coast.

The Ontario Liberals have been major advocates of P3s despite their Auditor General pointing out that P3s have cost Ontarians $8 billion more than traditional, government managed projects.

Liberal governments in Quebec have interfered in municipal bargaining, resulting in major labour action in municipalities across the province due to cuts, contracting out, and attacks on pensions.

  • Crown Corporations: While Pallister’s Conservatives have denied that they would privatize Manitoba Hydro, the last PC government in Manitoba also denied they would privatize MTS, and then turned around and did so. The Pallister Conservatives have been constant critics of Manitoba Hydro and its planned developments.

The Manitoba Liberal Party has already indicated they will privatize Manitoba Liquor stores, which means they are likely eyeing other places to encourage privatization. Manitoba Liquor stores earn over $280 million in annual profits which are used by the provincial government to pay for government services such as health care and education.

The choice for CUPE members is clear:

At the most recent CUPE Manitoba Convention, members from across the province voted to endorse the NDP. If you take a look at the track record of the NDP in Manitoba over the years, it is clear they are prepared to work hard for workers in our province.

  • School Sector workers: The NDP in Manitoba has consistently increased funding for schools. Class sizes have been reduced, while supports for staff have increased, including wages.
  • Child Care workers: The NDP has tripled public child care funding, and has implemented wage enhancement to increase pay for child care workers. They have also promised to build more public child care centres, and increase spaces by 12,000. Manitoba has the most affordable child care outside Quebec, and the NDP is committed to universal child care for all.
  • Social Services workers: Many of the social service agencies in Manitoba today exist because the NDP has prioritized community development, and has reinstated much of the funding that was cut in the 90’s.

The NDP hold the firm belief that investing in social services means investing in the community and protecting those who need it most. From supports for mental health to supporting the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations: the Manitoba NDP support social service programs and jobs.

  • Municipal workers: The Manitoba NDP has created the first-ever P3 Accountability Legislation in Canada, recognizing that public workers can do the job better, cheaper, and with more accountability to the taxpayer.

The Manitoba NDP has also consistently funded infrastructure, provided supports to municipalities across the province for things like arena maintenance, community programs, and parks.

  • Health Care workers: The Manitoba NDP has consistently made health care a priority, and is building new personal care homes across the province. While other provinces are cutting jobs, cutting pay, and privatizing services, the Manitoba NDP have always invested in health care.
  • Crown Corporations: The NDP will continue to invest in Manitoba Hydro, investing in both generation and transmission capacities. The NDP has promised to keep the MLCC public.

April 19 is an important day for CUPE members to get out and vote. But you can do more!

CUPE members are encouraged to volunteer in local NDP campaigns, and help re-elect Manitoba’s worker-friendly government. Talk to workers from other provinces about the challenges they’ve faced under Liberal and Conservative governments.

The stakes have never been higher, and now is the time to take action.

For more information on the provincial election, visit cupe.mb.ca/category/manitoba-provincial-election.

Manitoba fiscal update is good news for province’s workers

The province’s Economic and Fiscal Outlook tabled in the Manitoba Legislature today offers a more progressive way of ensuring that the wealthy pay their fair share. With the implementation of a new tax bracket that would see Manitoba’s highest earners provide slightly more in income taxes, the province is able to expand tax credits and supports for lower income earners.

“The 98% of Manitobans who don’t earn over $170,000 per year expect the government to help build a more level playing field,” said Kelly Moist, President of CUPE Manitoba. “Ensuring that the wealthy pay their fair share is good for working families”.

The fiscal outlook is an excellent tool for Manitobans to understand the nature of government budgeting, as well as a current look into the state of the Manitoba economy.

“While the Progressive Conservatives used much of today in an attempt to filibuster the government’s update, we are pleased that it was ultimately tabled for Manitobans to view,” said Moist. “The PCs have yet to offer Manitobans anything of substance themselves, and instead turn to parliamentary tactics to stall valuable discussion”.

The Manitoba Government is also committed to continued funding to health and education, and expanding childcare, ensuring that the province builds stronger public services for Manitobans.

“Other provinces are opting to cut funding to schools and hospitals, while Manitoba chooses to invest,” said Moist. “Manitobans should be proud that this government continues to fund the services we all rely on”.

NDP’s International Women’s Day pledge to continue to close the gender pay gap welcome – CUPE MB

Today the Manitoba NDP pledged to continue to fight to close the gender pay gap if re-elected to govern the province on April 19 – a valuable reminder that work continues to be done in support of pay equity.

Minister of Health, and NDP candidate for Kirkfield Park Sharon Blady announced that the province would ensure that provincial budgets are created with a specific focus on the impact they will have for women.

“The Manitoba government has already been using this approach to provincial budgets,” said Kelly Moist, President of CUPE Manitoba. “Year after year the government has invested in sectors where work is traditionally performed by women – and that matters”.

While governments at every level are investing heavily in infrastructure, this work is traditionally performed by men. What makes Manitoba different is that in addition to funding infrastructure renewal, the government has also ensured consistent funding increases to health care, education, and social services – where work is traditionally performed by women.

Other provinces across Canada have been cutting funding to sectors where women perform the majority of work.

A Globe and Mail article published in advance of International Women’s Day found that Manitoba has the smallest gender pay gap in the country, along with PEI, while Alberta and Newfoundland have the largest gap.

“The government’s investments in sectors where work is traditionally performed by women has already paid off in helping to close the gap,” said Moist. “We still have work to do to eliminate that gap altogether, but we know we’re on the right track”.

Today’s announcement also included a one million dollar pledge to support grassroots organizations that fight against gender-based violence. This proactive approach compliments the province’s new ground-breaking legislation that would ensure paid leave for victims of domestic violence.

CUPE Manitoba will be responding to election pledges across parties in the lead up to the April 19 provincial election. More stories on the provincial election can be found here.

Manitoba commitment to accessible public child care applauded

WINNIPEG – Tuesday’s announcement by the provincial government to increase public childcare spaces in Manitoba by 12,000 new spaces, while also increasing accessibility and wages will help strengthen Manitoba’s child care sector, says CUPE Manitoba.

“By ensuring funding for more spaces and by prioritizing wages and training, this government is supporting Manitoba families as well as those who provide the care for their children” says Kelly Moist, President of CUPE Manitoba.

CUPE Manitoba has always echoed the Childcare Coalition of Manitoba’s calls for improved funding for public child care spaces.

In June of 2015, Manitoba Progressive Conservative MLA Ian Wishart exposed the PC’s intention to move towards more private child care spaces in Manitoba, which would result in reduced quality, cut corners, and higher costs for Manitoba families.

“We’re pleased that the Manitoba NDP are standing to their commitment to support public, universally accessible child care” says Moist “we know that Brian Pallister’s PCs want to move towards a more private model, and that’s simply the wrong direction”.

CUPE represents approximately 150 employees in the child care sector in Manitoba.