Manitoba Hydro workers raise red flags on Hydro privatization after letter issued by CEO

WINNIPEG – A letter posted this morning on Manitoba Hydro’s digital staff bulletin board by Hydro President and CEO Jay Grewal has raised red flags for Hydro employees.

The letter announces Manitoba Hydro’s engagement with consultant PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to conduct a new review of Hydro’s operating model.

The first phase of the review will be rushed over an eight week period, and includes examining Hydro’s “structure, processes, governance, metrics, and culture”.

“This new review is incredibly concerning,” says Michelle Bergen, President of CUPE Local 998, representing 950 Hydro employees.

“Pallister is hiring yet another private consultant, and this time they are looking at Hydro’s public operating model and governance, which will certainly look at privatization”.

Pallister appointed Jay Grewal as CEO of Manitoba Hydro in February. Grewal has a track record of privatizing parts of B.C. Hydro.

“All the ducks are lining up in a row for Hydro privatization,” says Mike Velie, Assistant Business Manager for IBEW 2034, representing 2,600 Hydro employees. “This surprise review will undoubtedly result in recommendations to break up and privatize parts of Manitoba Hydro”.

The letter also notes that the review will not be looking at staff reductions, since Pallister already mandated major cuts to staffing. However the letter has no indication that the review will not recommend privatization or contracting out of Hydro work.

“We need Pallister to answer one simple question: will his government privatize all or parts of Manitoba Hydro?”, said Bergen. “We have not heard him give a clear answer to this critical question”.

Earlier this week a Probe Research survey, sponsored by the Winnipeg Free Press and CTV Winnipeg, showed that Manitobans are strongly opposed to Hydro Privatization.

“The public has the right to know Pallister’s plan for Hydro,” concludes Velie.

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


CUPE supports calls to repeal Bill 29.

CUPE members and leadership rallied yesterday to support the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s call to repeal Bill 29, the legislations requiring representation votes in the Healthcare Sector.


CUPE has long shared the PSAC’s position that these votes throw our healthcare system into even greater levels of chaos than the Conservative government has already created, and puts politics ahead of patient care.

Manitoba Government Kills PowerSmart – CUPE 998

The final nail in the coffin of Manitoba’s beloved energy efficiency program has officially been struck by the Pallister government. With the announcement of Efficiency Manitoba today, Manitoba Hydro’s PowerSmart program is set to wind down.

“The Pallister government’s carving out of Manitoba Hydro’s energy efficiency program is simply bad policy,” says Chris Mravinec, President of CUPE Local 998 representing Manitoba Hydro employees, including the PowerSmart program.

“PowerSmart is already an excellent program that has deep roots in the community as well as direct access to Hydro information to help Manitobans find energy savings, its hard to believe this new Crown will be able to offer anything new that PowerSmart isn’t already doing.”

CUPE Local 998 is calling on Manitoba Hydro and Efficiency Manitoba to ensure that PowerSmart employees are fairly transitioned into the new Crown.

“PowerSmart employees have the experience, the networks, and the know-how to help Manitobans save energy,” says Mravinec. “We hope the government will keep these workers doing what they do best, but today’s announcement does little to reassure PowerSmart employees that a plan is in place.”

The government has not made a clear case for why creating a new Crown Corporation for energy efficiency is necessary, especially when PowerSmart is already so successful. It has also not provided details on exactly how the Crown will be staffed, financed, or how programs will be delivered.

“This is another example of the government ignoring reason and pushing their agenda forward without details,” said Mravinec.

“Countless industry experts have made submissions and presentations to the Minister of Crown Services on why PowerSmart should remain part of Hydro, why hasn’t the Minister listened?”

In January 2017, CUPE 998 commissioned a poll that found 94% of Manitobans supported PowerSmart and 78% felt that PowerSmart should remain part of Manitoba Hydro.

CUPE Local 998 represents over 1,100 members at Manitoba Hydro

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.

CUPE presents to the Standing Committee on Legislative Affairs on Bill 24

CUPE Manitoba President Terry Egan and CUPE Local 500 President Gord Delbridge made presentations to the Standing Committee on Legislative Affairs on Bill 24, The Red Tape Reduction and Government Efficiency Act which aims to eliminate The Public-Private Partnerships Transparency and Accountability Act.

“When this government was elected, one of it’s key messages to the public was that it was going to improve transparency,” CUPE Manitoba President Terry Egan told the committee.

“Eliminating the P3 Transparency and Accountability Act is moving in the complete opposite direction”.

“I worked on the front-line in a Winnipeg school, its where I spent my entire career,” said Egan. “So this announcement came as a total shock to me. I wondered who on Broadway could come up with this backwards idea, and why”, referencing the Pallister government’s plans to build new schools in Manitoba under a P3 model while at the same time eliminating the P3 Transparency and Accountability Act.

CUPE 500 President Gord Delbridge provided the committee with numerous examples from across Canada where P3s have failed, and emphasized the importance of strong P3 accountability legislation.

“Rather than throwing out this legislation, we ask this government to instead turn its mind to improving The Public-Private Partnerships Transparency and Accountability Act to ensure even more transparency and better oversight of P3’s from the beginning to the end of the end of P3 projects,” said Delbridge.

“While some may call this red tape – most Manitobans would call this common sense”.

Read CUPE Manitoba and CUPE Local 500’s presentations:

CUPE Manitoba P3 Speaking Notes
CUPE Local 500 Speaking Notes

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.

CUPE 998 Opposed to Bill 19

Winnipeg – CUPE Local 998 (representing workers at Manitoba Hydro, including in the PowerSmart program) will be on-site to voice opposition at the Legislative Committee hearings on Bill 19 tonight.

Bill 19 (Efficiency Manitoba Act) seeks to carve out the PowerSmart program from Manitoba Hydro and establish a separate energy efficiency crown corporation.

“PowerSmart is an important program housed in Manitoba Hydro that helps Manitobans achieve energy efficiency targets and savings,” says Chris Mravinec, President of CUPE 998.

“It makes no sense to divorce our public energy efficiency program from our public hydro”.

The government re-scheduled committee hearings to tonight at 6pm, after failing to pass committee hearings on May 11 following numerous presentations, including from CUPE 998, and an hours-long filibuster by Conservative MLA Steven Fletcher.

“We hope the government comes to its senses on Bill 19 in ‘round-two’ of committee hearings”, says Mravinec.

CUPE Local 998 launched an online petition that has garnered over 300 signatures and numerous comments since it was launched on May 17.

For more information contact:

(204) 391-7939 Chris Mravinec, President CUPE 998

(204) 801-7339 David Jacks, CUPE Communications

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


Manitoba budget leaves doors wide open for privatization

Winnipeg – CUPE Manitoba is concerned that the provincial budget announced today leaves the door open for the unchecked privatization of public services and programs, while eroding existing public services.

The government recently announced that current P3 Accountability and Transparency legislation will be eliminated, and echoed this move in today’s budget.

CUPE MB President Kelly Moist speaking to the Canadian Press at the 2017 budget scrum

“This government insists that public transparency and accountability is a ‘regulatory burden’”, said Kelly Moist, President of CUPE Manitoba. “We believe the public has the right to know the details of private contracts that are receiving public dollars”.

The budget’s language of “new”, “innovative”, and “collaborative” approaches to the government’s long-term care investments is also concerning, considering this language is often double-speak for privatization.

“The province must invest in more public personal care home spaces and reject for-profit beds,” said Moist. “As more and more Manitobans move into personal care homes, we need to ensure a strong, fully public system is available to them so dollars go directly to the care Manitobans deserve, instead of private profit.”

There is no clear commitment that the 501 new childcare spaces announced in the budget will be fully public.

CUPE is also concerned with the continued emphasis on Social Impact Bonds as a medium to deliver public social services and programs.

“While the budget references a ‘Made in Manitoba’ Social Impact Bond program, there is very little detail in what programs and services will be affected,” said Moist. “We are pleased however that the government is interested in supporting community Social Enterprises, and hope the government continues to support community-led initiatives and leaves private for-profit corporations out of it”.

“The government has already broken it’s promise to protect public services and the workers who provide them by closing ERs, laying off hundreds of Hydro workers, and imposing wage freezes on workers province-wide” says Moist. “We need to strengthen – not cut or privatize – our programs and services and this budget does not give us much confidence”.