Manitoba Throne Speech threatens public education, child care, and continues to hurt front-line health care – CUPE

The Manitoba Throne Speech offers little reassurance that the provincial government will support public education and child care, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“With the elimination of the education property tax, we are concerned that the government will resort to school cuts, especially under the auspices of the K-12 review,” said Abe Araya, President of Manitoba. “Where is the government going to come up with funding for our children’s education?”

The Throne Speech also introduces the government’s plans to increase private child care spaces in the province, including for capital investments in private child care facilities.

“The government should be focused on increasing public, affordable child care across Manitoba, rather than subsidizing private facilities that could end up costing families more,” said Araya. “Childcare advocates have been calling for fully funded public child care in the province, and this government is going the opposite direction”.

CUPE Manitoba President Abe Araya, and CUPE 204 President Debbie Boissonneault at the Manitoba Throne Speech

The government’s sweeping changes to the health care system continues to impact front-line health care support staff.

“As the government and health authorities continue to implement their restructuring of health care, support workers remain understaffed and under-valued,” said Debbie Boissonneault, President of CUPE Local 204 representing Community and Facility Support staff in the WRHA and Shared Health.

“We need investments in support staff positions, as well as a commitment from the province that they will not be privatizing or contracting out any health care services”.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees is Canada’s largest union representing more than 700,000 members. In Manitoba, CUPE is the province’s largest union, representing approximately 36,000 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.

 

Abe Araya Elected as President of CUPE Manitoba

BRANDON – Delegates at the 2019 CUPE Manitoba Convention in Brandon elected Abe Araya as President of the province’s largest union. Abe Araya comes from CUPE Local 110, representing custodians, maintenance, and painters at the Winnipeg School Division.

“Our union is focused on fighting back against cuts to health care, education, social services, and privatization,” said Araya. “Despite Brian Pallister’s attempts to divide working people, we will be uniting workers from across Manitoba to put a stop to Pallister’s austerity agenda.”

Delegates at convention voted in support resolutions, ranging from health and safety in the workplace, anti-oppression training for activists, pushing back against privatization, fighting against health care and education cuts, and supporting the Green New Deal.

“CUPE is an incredibly diverse union,” said Araya. “With the strength of Manitoba’s largest union, we will be on the front line defending public health care and education, public Hydro, and fighting for properly funded childcare and social services for all Manitobans.”

CUPE’s annual convention featured guest speakers, including NDP leader Wab Kinew, NDP Critic for Infrastructure and Municipal Affairs Matt Wiebe, NDP Member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre Leah Gazan, Winnipeg School Division Trustee Yijie Chen, and Manitoba Health Coalition Director Breanne Goertzen.

CUPE National President Mark Hancock and CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury spoke to delegates, committing the full strength of CUPE’s 700,000 members to fight against cuts and privatization.

Manitoba Federation of Labour President Kevin Rebeck provided updates on labour’s united front against Bill 28 (The Public Services Sustainability Act) and committed to fight against the Pallister government’s unconstitutional wage freeze.

Two hundred people rallied outside Brandon City Hall with CUPE Local 69 on Wednesday evening, voicing concern over the contracting out of work at the Wheat City Golf Course.

Gord Delbridge, President of CUPE Local 500 served as interim CUPE Manitoba President throughout 2019. Delbridge continues to serve as Vice-President of CUPE Manitoba. Barb Gribben of CUPE Local 737 was this year’s recipient of the prestigious Jack Rodie Award, recognizing dedication and activism in the union.

“Our union is stronger, and more united than ever,” said Araya. “Manitobans can count on CUPE to defend good jobs, and fight for our public services.”

The Canadian Union of Public Employees is Canada’s largest union representing more than 700,000 members.  In Manitoba, CUPE represents over 36,000 members working in health care facilities, personal care homes, school divisions, municipal services, social services, childcare centres, public utilities, libraries and family emergency services.

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.

Manitoba Government cancels proposed P3 schools: commitment to keep new schools public right step, says CUPE

CUPE members in Manitoba are celebrating a major victory against P3s.

Five new schools in Winnipeg and Brandon will be built without the using a Public-Private Partnership (P3) model, according to the 2018 Manitoba Budget.

The government initially planned to build four schools under the P3 model, but after a cost-benefit analyses the savings were found to be enough to build an entire fifth school!

“We are incredibly relieved that the government has chosen not to pursue P3 schools here in Manitoba,” said Terry Egan, President of CUPE Manitoba. “P3 schools across Canada have proven to be more expensive and less accountable to the public, and this is case-in-point.”

(CUPE 737 members and supporters raising awareness in the community against P3 schools)

Throughout 2017, CUPE conducted a sustained campaign in Manitoba to “raise red flags” on P3 schools. CUPE 737, representing workers at Brandon School Division, held a public Town Hall meeting, presented to the Brandon School Division Board of Trustees numerous times, and reached out to the community.

“It was incredibly important for the public to understand the implications P3 schools could have, so we made a real effort to inform the public since the government wasn’t going to do so,” said Jamie Rose, President of CUPE 737.

“We are glad that the government has backed off its plans for P3 schools, and can actually now build one more school than they had planned.”

P3 schools failed on cost, transparency and accountability across Canada. In Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Alberta, P3 schools cost millions of dollars more than they would have cost had the projects been built traditionally. It’s likely the same story for Saskatchewan, where cost claims about P3 schools have been shrouded in secrecy, and are based on faulty calculations.

P3 schools have been found to be less transparent and accountable to citizens, which was particularly alarming for CUPE considering the provincial government’s recent scrapping of the P3 Transparency and Accountability Act.

“It was clear to us, despite what Pallister said when he first announced the new schools, that the P3 school experience across Canada has cost Canadians millions of dollars more than the fully public model,” said Egan.

(Public advertising against P3 schools in Brandon)

“We hope the Pallister government will take this cue, and consult with CUPE and our experts on other privatization schemes, including our concerns with other P3s, Social Impact Bonds, private child care, and privatization in health care.”

This victory was a success because CUPE members worked together, as a united front.

“I want to thank the leaders and activists at CUPE 737, as well as Chair of the CUPE Manitoba School Division Sector Gale Morton, Regional Vice-President Gord Delbridge, CUPE members from other sectors, and the staff at CUPE Regional and CUPE National offices for all their support throughout this campaign,” said Egan.

“When CUPE members work together, we can – and do – win”.

For more information visit cupe.mb.ca/p3schools

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

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

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