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November 29, 2019

MFL News

Pallister government introduces a number of Labour bills in the Legislature

This week the Pallister government introduced a number of bills that would impact labour. Some of them are brand new, and many of them are bills that have been introduced before but died in the Legislature because Brian Pallister called a snap provincial election this summer.

New Legislation:

The Pensions Benefit Act

The Pallister government has introduced a bill to amend a number of elements of Manitoba’s Pensions Benefits Act

As you’ll recall, when the government released the findings of its Pension Commission review nearly two years ago, the report floated a number of dangerous and concerning ideas that would weaken pension security for Manitobans, and Manitoba’s unions pushed-back hard. One of their schemes was to weaken defined benefit plans into target benefit plans, and another was to end universal participation in workplace pension plans. As a result of strong advocacy from the labour movement, the Pallister government has backed down from acting on these recommendations.

However, the bill introduced this week still contains some very concerning elements, including a provision to allow workers to unlock pension funds and deplete their retirement income prematurely. In fact, under the new bill, workers aged 65 and over would be permitted to unlock their entire retirement income (100% of it), exposing them to tremendous risk in the private market place.

The bill also reduces the solvency requirements for plans from 100 to 85 per cent, representing a weakening of funding security for retirement plans. We have seen too often with cases like SEARS how dangerous it is to let Employers under-fund their pension obligations.

The Workers Compensation Act

This bill would make extensive changes to the Workers Compensation Act, based on the five-year review of WCB and the government’s own promises.

While we continue to sift through the fine details, the bill appears to be a mix of wins and losses for Labour. On the negative side, government is following through on its pledges to re-introduce a cap on insurable earnings (set at $150,000) and to create an employer advisor office.

On the positive side, the bill:

o   Creates a schedule of occupational diseases with presumptive coverage;

o   Stops the unfair practice of applying the ‘dominant cause’ test to psychological injuries;

o   Expands provision of medical aid to injured workers; and

o   Assigns responsibility to the Manitoba Federation of Labour for providing worker nominees to the Board of Directors.

The Employment Standards Code Amendment Act (Leave for Victims of Interpersonal Violence)

There was some good news on the legislative front this week, as this bill would extend the employment leave provisions available to victims of domestic violence to include all victims of interpersonal violence, including sexual violence and stalking. These leave provisions include five paid days. The labour movement spearheaded the push to make Manitoba the first province in Canada to create employment leave for those experiencing domestic violence, and we were glad that these extensions received unanimous support from employers and labour at the Labour Management Review Committee.

Old Legislation

Public Services Sustainability Act

The government has re-introduced its 11th hour amendments to the PSSA that they tried to get through before our court case (thankfully stopped by the NDP opposition). This bill would just tinker around the edges of a bad, unconstitutional bill. In short it:

o   Provides greater flexibility in setting the timing and duration of the sustainability period (allows expanded scope for giving “credit” for earlier zeros);

o   Sustainability savings remain at the sole discretion of Treasury Board but may now be shared in full or in part and be applied throughout the full sustainability period (not just years 3 and 4);

o   Includes specific new language on recovering any overpayments from public sector employees; and

o   Includes scope for some special exemptions at the government’s sole discretion.

Workplace Safety and Health Act

This bill was previously introduced last spring, and it would make the following changes that will weaken the rules that protect workers’ safety and health on the job:

o   It eliminates the important position of Chief Prevention Officer, which was established to be an independent public watch dog to ensure continuous progress and accountability on workplace health and safety;

o   It gives heavy-handed powers to government to dismiss workers’ health and safety appeals without proper due process or a hearing at the Manitoba Labour Board; and

o   It imposes a new arbitrary time limit on workers’ ability to defend themselves in cases where workers face unfair retaliation from their employers for sticking-up for their health and safety rights.

Public Sector Construction Projects (Tendering) Act

The Pallister government is taking a third crack at passing this bill, which has died twice in the Legislature under their watch. This is the bill that would ban project labour agreements for large scale construction projects that benefit Manitobans. We know that PLAs provide tremendous value for money to Manitobans, while supporting good-paying local jobs and safe workplaces. We will continue to support the Manitoba Building Trades in opposing this bill. 

Labour Relations Act

The government has re-introduced its bill to privatize conciliation and mediation services, as it did not pass before the election. As we said when it was last introduced, the longstanding public mediation and conciliation services provided by the Province served employers and workers well, and we oppose this decision to move it to the private sector.

We encourage affiliates to register to speak to any or all of these bills at legislative committees, which will most likely to be held in the spring. The MFL will be developing submissions on each of these bills and we can share them with you. To register to present, just call the Office of the Clerk at 204-945-3636.

In solidarity,

Kevin Rebeck,

President of the Manitoba Federation of Labour

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November 19, 2019

MFL News

MFL statement on the Pallister government's Throne Speech

Working families will be disappointed with today's throne speech. There was nothing for patients and health care workers who are worried about more cuts. There was nothing for teachers, education workers and families who are worried that the Pallister government is going to take their scissors to our province's schools next. 

Thousands of parents are looking for child care to help them get back to work or school. Unfortunately, this government has no plan to ensure our child care spaces are affordable and accessible. Instead, their priority is more expensive private-sector spaces, which won't help families who need affordable child care now. 

This government continues to let workers down in Manitoba. They are committed to reintroducing a twice-failed ban on project labour agreements, even though these agreements support good local jobs, stronger safety measures and excellent value for money on major infrastructure projects. They are eliminating the right to voluntary Sunday work for retail workers, even though we all know that families are finding it increasingly difficult to spend quality time with each other.

And they’re pursuing a privatization route for infrastructure that Manitobans count on.

We look forward to the details of this government’s plan to extend employment leave provisions to survivors of sexual violence. Led by advocacy from the labour movement, Manitoba was the first province in Canada to introduce paid leave for survivors of domestic violence. We would expect paid leave to be extended to survivors of sexual violence so that loss of income is not a further barrier to getting the help that they need.

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September 30, 2019

MFL News

Statement by MFL President Kevin Rebeck in response to today’s throne speech

Today’s sparse throne speech leaves a lot to be desired for working families. In the last few days we have seen the Pallister government continue to put the needs of working families last. Public accounts data shows they have underfunded the health care system again for the 2018/19 fiscal year. Just yesterday, it was announced that Manitoba’s minimum wage workers will continue to be kept below the poverty line because of this government’s failure to act.

There was nothing in this throne speech for families worried about health care, education, affordable and accessible child care, or any of the other services that they rely on.

                                          – 30 –

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May 6, 2019

MFL News

MANITOBA NURSES UNION MEMBERSHIP VOTES TO JOIN THE MANITOBA FEDERATION OF LABOUR

(Winnipeg) The Manitoba Nurses Union membership has voted to affiliate to the Manitoba Federation of Labour, MNU President Darlene Jackson and MFL President Kevin Rebeck announced today.

“Manitoba’s nurses know that all unions must work together to stop attacks on our health care      system, and stand up for care providers,” said MNU President Darlene Jackson. “We are proud to join the Manitoba Federation of Labour, and continue the fight for better working conditions, fair wages and a high quality of life for Manitoba workers.”

The affiliation decision means that the MFL’s membership will rise to 115,000. The MNU will sit on the MFL’s Executive Council and MNU members will also be able to participate in the MFL’s educational opportunities, committees and campaigns. 

“Manitoba’s nurses do vital work providing excellent health care to Manitobans, and we are pleased to welcome the Manitoba Nurses Union into the MFL family,” said Rebeck. “Our federation and our labour movement are stronger as a result.”

Jackson noted that the time is right for the MNU to affiliate to the MFL, as there is growing concern for nurses and all health care workers about the damage the Pallister government is doing to the health care system, leading to inadequate staffing levels, worker exhaustion and increased violence in the workplace.

The MFL and MNU have a history of working together to support working people, including the Partnership to Defend Public Services’ legal challenge of the Pallister government’s unconstitutional wage freeze legislation, improvements to safety and health laws and winning presumptive workers compensation PTSD coverage for all Manitoba workers. The MNU and MFL are also proud sponsors of this year’s Winnipeg General Strike Centennial Celebrations. 

Jackson and Rebeck both added that at a time when the Pallister government is making cuts to health care and throwing the system into chaos, it is more important than ever for Manitoba’s labour movement to stand united and fight to protect the workers who proudly deliver the services that working families count on.

                        – 30 –

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March 28, 2019

MFL News

Statement by MFL President Kevin Rebeck on planned minimum wage increase

No one should work full-time and live in poverty. But that is exactly what the Pallister government is forcing thousands of workers to do, by keeping our minimum wage as a poverty wage.

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.

- Kevin Rebeck, President of the Manitoba Federation of Labour

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March 12, 2019

Health & Safety

Manitoba Federation of Labour Statement on Bill 12: The Workplace Safety and Health Amendment Act

Yesterday, the Pallister government introduced Bill 12. In introducing these proposed changes to the Workplace Safety and Health Act, they focused on the fact that the bill would double the maximum amount for penalties for offenses.

But what they neglected to say was that they have consistently declined to apply the maximum penalties at their current, lower, levels, so we have no reason to believe they would enforce higher maximums. Higher penalties can only serve as a deterrent if government is willing to invest the needed resources into enforcement, and follow through with stiff penalties on offenders – so far, this government has failed to do either. 

The reason they wanted to focus on this yesterday was to mask the other bad elements of the bill.

After receiving reports from the now-eliminated Minister’s Advisory Council on Workplace Safety and Health, as well as from stakeholders in labour, business, health and other areas, the Pallister government has elected to ignore the advice it received and barrel ahead with its own agenda of putting workers’ safety last.

Unfortunately, this bill makes the following changes that will weaken the rules that protect workers’ safety and health on the job:

  • It eliminates the important position of Chief Prevention Officer, which was established to be an independent public watch dog to ensure continuous progress and accountability on workplace health and safety;
  • It gives heavy-handed powers to government to dismiss workers’ health and safety appeals without proper due process or a hearing at the Manitoba Labour Board; and
  • It imposes a new arbitrary time limit on workers’ ability to defend themselves in cases where workers face unfair retaliation from their employers for sticking-up for their health and safety rights.

Weakening the safety and health rules that protect workers on the job is a concerning trend for the Pallister government, and this bill comes on the heels of:

  • The deep cuts they have made to workplace safety and health and the elimination of the Minister’s Advisory Council on Workplace Safety and Health;
  • Their weakening of child labour laws by setting the minimum working age at 13, meaning kids can get permits to work a full-year younger than kids in Ontario and Saskatchewan can;and
  • Their decision to lower the standards for hearing testing on the job, even though hearing loss is one of the most common workplace injuries.

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March 12, 2019

MFL News

Manitoba Federation of Labour Statement on Pallister Government's Closure of the Manitoba Conciliation and Mediation Branch

In introducing Bill 18: The Labour Relations Amendment Act, the Pallister Government is making the foolish decision to shut down a well-known and trusted service of mediation experts that has provided decades of advice to unions and employers when labour negotiations faced challenges. 

When the Pallister Government asked if they should keep this trusted service, both business and labour advocated to do so. We are disappointed, though not surprised, that the Pallister Government has once again made the decision to go it alone, without listening to anyone but themselves.

We fear that the shutdown of this service could lead to more labour disruptions, including strikes and lockouts, which no one wants. This decision is truly a penny-wise, pound-foolish.

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March 4, 2019

MFL News

Pallister government refuses to commit to a living wage

MFL President Kevin Rebeck had this to say in response to the Pallister government's poverty reduction strategy:

Today the Pallister government finally released its long-delayed poverty reduction plan. We are disappointed that there is no commitment to make Manitoba’s minimum wage a living wage at $15-an-hour. No one should work full-time and still have to live in poverty, but the Pallister government is forcing thousands of workers, most of them adults and women, to do so by keeping our minimum wage at poverty wage levels.

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December 6, 2018

MFL News

MANITOBA FEDERATION OF LABOUR LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN TO RAISE AWARENESS ABOUT RIGHT TO PAID LEAVE FOR VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

The Manitoba Federation of Labour has launched a new social media campaign to raise awareness about the rights Manitoba workers have to take paid leave from work when experiencing domestic violence, MFL President Kevin Rebeck announced today. 

“Domestic violence affects too many Manitobans, and we’re finding that many workers do not know that they have the right to take paid leave from work to get the help they need,” said Rebeck. “So we’re doing our part to raise awareness about this important right workers have in Manitoba.”

One in three working Canadians have experienced domestic violence. Due to changes to provincial legislation made in 2016, any Manitoban who is experiencing domestic violence now has the right to take paid leave from work and get help, without fear of losing their job.

Domestic violence employment leave can be used for one or more of the following purposes:

  • to seek medical attention for the worker or her/his children related to domestic violence;
  • to obtain services from a victim services organization (e.g. abuse shelter);
  • to obtain psychological or other professional counselling;
  • to relocate (either temporarily or permanently);
  • to get help from law enforcement or to seek legal assistance (including preparing for, or participating in, related civil or criminal proceedings); or
  • for other purposes that may be prescribed in Regulation.

“The Manitoba Federation of Labour Women’s Committee, along with Manitoba’s labour movement, pushed hard to make this right a reality,” said Deb Jones, Co-Chair of the MFL Women’s Committee. “We wanted to time the launch of this awareness campaign with the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre because women still face appalling levels of violence, often at the hands of intimate partners.”

To find out more about the right to paid leave from work when experiencing domestic violence, Manitobans can visit mfl.ca.

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December 3, 2018

Health & Safety

PALLISTER GOVERNMENT WEAKENS SAFETY AND HEALTH RULES WHEN IT COMES TO YOUNG WORKERS

Statement by MFL President Kevin Rebeck in response to the Pallister government’s online Young Worker Readiness Certificate Course:

The Pallister government is touting the new online Young Worker Readiness Certificate Course without mentioning that they have gone against the recommendations of both business and labour to set the safe working age at 14, as it is in both Saskatchewan and Ontario. 

Instead, they have set a lower age of 13, meaning that Manitoba has weaker standards when it comes to child labour than either of our neighbouring provinces.

Clearly, the Pallister government is only interesting in harmonizing with other provinces when they can race to the bottom on health and safety, not when harmonizing with our neighbours means setting a higher standard when it comes to the safety our province’s very young, and vulnerable, workers.

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