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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CUPE: Pallister’s PC MLA wage freeze is not genuine

The Canadian Union of Public Employees Manitoba is frustrated with today’s Conservative Party update on MLAs’ wages, and calls on Premier Pallister to get back to protecting public services.

“Today, Brian Pallister has once again disappointed us,” said Kelly Moist, President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Manitoba. “The Premier and his cabinet took 20% salary increases on their first day in office, then froze minimum wage. After taking home an extra $21,000, Brian Pallister wants us to believe he’s taking a wage freeze. This is not genuine.”

The large 2016 wage increase for cabinet ministers and the Premier met with opposition. Premier Pallister stated today that PC MLAs are committing to paying back their increase for 2017, but questions remain. If salary scales and benefits continue to increase during the supposed wage freeze, MLAs may end up with a large pay increase after the next election. CUPE points out that such arrangements were not offered to public sector employees when they took a two-year wage freeze in the last round of bargaining.

“A full-time Education Assistant in Portage la Prairie earns annual wages of $22,000 to $25,000,” continued Moist. “The cost of the Premier’s 2016 pay increase would cover an EA’s wages in his home town for a year. It’s a slap in the face that the Premier is telling workers, unionized or not, to tighten our belts.”

Like other Manitobans, CUPE members rely on good public services and expect our government to make reasonable decisions. CUPE believes the Manitoba economy is stable, and that Premier Pallister should be making better choices.

“There is still time before the provincial budget is released to do the right thing. We urge Brian Pallister to protect public services and public service workers like he promised he would. We urge the Premier to meet us at the bargaining table and negotiate fair contracts,” said Moist.

“After all, a deal is deal.”

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

Feb 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manitoba budget offers minor funding increases to public services

Social Impact Bonds give rise to concern

The Pallister Government’s first provincial budget offers minor improvements to many important areas of the public sector, says CUPE Manitoba.

“We are pleased to see this government’s continuation of funding to health care, education, post- secondary education, and social services,” says Kelly Moist, President of CUPE Manitoba. “In an environment where cuts would have been the ‘easy way out’, we are pleased that this government listened to Manitobans, and has instead maintained or increased funding to many key public services”.

CUPE Manitoba applauds funding commitments to the Aboriginal Academic Achievement Fund, which will help ensure Community Liaison Workers in the Winnipeg School Division have the tools they need to perform their important work. These workers were under threat of significant job losses and funding cuts in early 2015.

CUPE also hopes the new Premier’s Enterprise Team will include representatives from labour, which were included in the former government’s Premier’s Economic Advisory Council.

However, the government’s ongoing pursuit of Social Impact Bonds causes serious concern.

“While we are pleased that the Manitoba Government has not implemented major cuts, we are very concerned with this government’s ongoing promotion of Social Impact Bonds,” says Moist. “Social Impact Bonds are an abdication of government responsibility for marginalized or vulnerable people, and we must reject these profit-making schemes”.

Additionally, while many mandate letters to the newly appointed Ministers call for increased involvement from the private sector, including in childcare, there is no mention of increased private involvement in the budget documents.

“We still need to see how exactly this funding is rolled out,” says Moist. “We need a strong commitment from this government that they will not privatize or contract out any public services”.

Budget Highlights:

  • 3.5% increase to health
  • Funding increases to the Aboriginal Academic Achievement fund
  • 1.4 % increase to education with 2.5% increase to initiatives for at-risk youth, literacy
  • 2.5% operating grant increase to universities
  • 4.5% increase to Child and Family Services

Budget Lowlights:

  • Commitment to Social Impact Bonds
  • No commitment to oppose privatization and contracting out
  • No commitment to increasing the minimum wage

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”.

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.

Paid leave for victims of domestic violence meaningful to Manitoba workers: CUPE

Winnipeg – Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger offered a new, progressive vision for the province at Monday’s annual speech from the throne, including a first-of-its-kind pledge to provide paid leave for victims of domestic violence.

“Thousands of workers experience domestic violence every day,” said Kelly Moist, President of CUPE Manitoba, “this government is taking real leadership in ensuring that victims of domestic violence are treated with compassion, and offered the space they need to seek help.”

This pledge is backed by research from the University of Western Ontario, the Canadian Labour Congress, and supported by CUPE which found that the vast majority of workers who experienced domestic violence were negatively impacted at work by those experiences. The research also found that Canadian employers lose close to $80 million every year due to domestic violence in the workplace,

“Domestic violence doesn’t just stay at home, it follows people to work, and negatively affects their performance as well as increases further risk of abuse,” said Moist, “this pledge will help more Manitobans than we can possibly ever know.”

Manitoba government offers responsible, visionary plan: CUPE

WINNIPEG – Manitoba’s NDP government has once again offered the province a progressive vision for the upcoming year in its annual speech from the throne, in what CUPE Manitoba is calling “a responsible and visionary plan.”

“The Manitoba government has offered an incredibly progressive plan that reflects the needs of a great cross-section of Manitobans” said Kelly Moist, President of CUPE Manitoba, “offering paid leave for victims of domestic violence, ensuring support for new refugees, confirming funding for Shoal Lake’s freedom road – this is the whole package.”

This year’s Throne Speech reflects the nation-wide calls for action on numerous key issues, both domestic and international, positioning Manitoba as a clear leader on social justice and progressive economic growth.

“After over a decade of steady growth and pragmatic stewardship over the economy, this government is well poised to tackle some pretty big issues” said Moist, “Manitobans expect a government that is both responsible and visionary, and that’s what today’s Throne Speech offers.”

Highlights of the Throne Speech include extending paid leave to victims of domestic violence, support for Syrian and other refugees, a renewed call for a  national inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women, a renewed commitment to building the Shoal Lake 40 freedom road, investments in infrastructure and rapid transit, stable funding for colleges and universities, and a commitment to building 12,000 affordable childcare spaces.

The Throne Speech further commits to protecting Manitoba’s crown corporations against privatization.

“While other provinces are recklessly privatizing their key assets, Manitoba’s NDP government has pledged to protect our important institutions” said Moist, “all we need to do is look to our east or west to see what Liberal and Conservative governments have to offer, and it’s not pretty.”

Additionally the Throne Speech continues the government’s steady funding towards health care, education, infrastructure, and improving long-term care, all of which affect the work that CUPE members perform daily

“As the union that represents workers in communities and workplaces across Manitoba, we are excited to work with this government as it turns its vision into reality,” said Moist, “today’s Throne Speech is a great launching point for a new, progressive plan for our province.”

CUPE Manitoba applauds provincial government’s continued wage enhancement for community living workers.

WINNIPEG – The Manitoba government announced the next phase of its 2014 commitment to continue to improve wages for workers who provide support to adults with intellectual disabilities.

“Workers who support members of the community with intellectual disabilities deserve to have fair and reasonable compensation” says Kelly Moist, President of CUPE Manitoba. “This work is integral to the well-being of our community, and we are pleased that the government has recognized the value of the work our members do”.

In July, 2014, CUPE members from Local 3085 at Community Living Selkirk held info pickets outside the office of the Minister of Family Services, Kerri Irvin-Ross, calling on the government to improve wages for direct service workers.

In August, 2014, the province committed $6 million in wage enhancements to help top-up the wages of the lowest paid workers to help move them away from poverty-level wages.

Today the provincial government announced the newest instalments of the wage enhancement fund, which will see wages for residential direct service workers increase to a starting wage of $13.00 per hour beginning July 1, 2015, and $13.75 beginning January 1, 2016. The government also announced a new $15.13 minimum starting wage for house managers effective January 1, 2016.

“We are pleased that Minister Irvin-Ross is responsive to the needs of these important workers” says Moist. “CUPE applauds the Manitoba government’s ongoing commitment to support those who work with adults living with intellectual disabilities in residential settings. We are hopeful the government will soon extend these new minimum wages to other direct service workers, such as those who work in day programs throughout the province.”

Assisted Community Living organizations are non-profit support services that provide residential care to Manitobans living with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Services include 24-hour supervision, recreational supports, help with meals, medication, and integration into the community which helps Manitobans with intellectual disabilities live with dignity and respect.

CUPE Manitoba has representation on the province’s wage enhancement committee that was created to ensure workers’ voices are heard in the implementation of the wage enhancement fund and we continue to provide input to improve the reach of the fund.

CUPE Local 3085 represents approximately 100 employees at Community Living Selkirk and 120 more across the Interlake providing residential support services to Manitobans living with intellectual disabilities. CUPE Manitoba represents over 600 ACL workers province-wide.

See the full Government of Manitoba news release.