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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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November 23, 2018

General

Statement by President Rebeck on Liberal government's back-to-work legislation

The Manitoba Federation of Labour fully supports Canada’s postal workers and their right to strike. By legislating them back-to-work, the Trudeau Liberals are following in Stephen Harper’s footsteps and demonstrating that at the end of the day, they are on the side of the employer and not working people.

Postal workers have been on rotating strikes to demand equal pay and safer workplaces. But the Trudeau government is choosing to support management instead of allowing for a free and fair collective bargaining process. 

The right to collective bargaining is a Charter right, but this right is under attack by the federal government’s actions. Prime Minister Trudeau and his Liberals are no better than Stephen Harper when it comes to standing up for workers’ rights.

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November 23, 2018

MFL News Health & Safety

PALLISTER GOVERNMENT WEAKENING HEARING PROTECTION ON THE JOB

Statement by MFL President Kevin Rebeck in response to the Pallister government’s announced changes to The Workplace Safety and Health Regulation:

All workers deserve to be safe on the job. But the Pallister government announced today that it is continuing its attacks on Manitoba workers by weakening workplace health and safety rules that protect against hearing loss.  

These changes will delay testing by six months and reduce testing frequency. These changes will weaken protections for Manitobans whose work exposes them to noise that can cause hearing loss. They will also make it much more difficult for workers to exercise their right to claim workers compensation for work-related hearing injuries.

This announcement follows the Pallister government’s cuts to workplace health and safety and their elimination of the Minister’s Advisory Council on health and safety.

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November 20, 2018

MFL News

PALLISTER GOVERNMENT’S THRONE SPEECH A DISAPPOINTMENT FOR WORKING FAMILIES

Statement by MFL President Kevin Rebeck in response to the Pallister government’s 2018 Throne Speech:

This Throne Speech is a disappointment for working families in our province. These families are looking for support to make life more affordable and improve health care. 

The Pallister government has no jobs plan, and today’s speech failed to deliver a plan to help young Manitobans build their futures here at home. 

At a time when our economy is expected to slow down, there is no commitment to restore the cuts made to infrastructure funding, and the government is moving ahead with its ideological agenda to make it harder for Manitobans to get good jobs by banning the use of Project Labour Agreements on public infrastructure projects. 

The Pallister government is also underfunding the education system while increasing post-secondary tuition fees for working families. 

Of serious concern, today’s speech suggests the Pallister government is moving toward privatization of Manitoba’s non-profit child care sector. Working families are in critical need of affordable, safe and accessible child care to help them get back to work or school – higher fees and private profits are not the answer to Manitoba’s child care crisis. 

Despite the serious concerns of Manitobans about losing health care services they count on, the Pallister government is forging ahead and closing emergency rooms and making other health care cuts instead of listening to the advice of health care professionals. 

Families will continue to feel the pinch of this government’s failure to build personal care home beds that their elderly loved ones need now. 

One of the only positives in this speech is the increased support for victims of domestic violence. We hope that the increase in resources includes an awareness campaign to let Manitoba workers know that they have the right to take up to five days off from work with pay to get help when experiencing domestic violence.

 

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October 1, 2018

General

Along with key gains in the USMCA, Canada’s unions raise concern

-Canadian Labour Congress

Canada’s unions say the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) represents some points of progress, but are raising concern over protections for some Canadian workers.

“Workers across the country will be happy to learn that NAFTA’s Chapter 11 has finally been eliminated from this trade agreement,” said Canadian Labour Congress President, Hassan Yussuff. “Decades of unfairness have cost Canada over $300 million in penalties and fees and made it clear that the investor-state dispute settlement clause was working against our national interest.”

Canada’s unions are also pleased to see the side agreements on labour moved into the main agreement, now subject to a state-to-state dispute resolution process. “The USMCA gets it right on labour provisions, including provisions to protect workers against employment discrimination on the basis of gender,” said Yussuff.

Protections for the Canadian auto industry, including exemptions from tariffs and labour value requirements, were welcomed. The agreement also maintains exemptions for cultural industries and expands these to include digital industries.

Intellectual property provisions will be strengthened under this new agreement, extending pharmaceutical drug patent protection to 10 years. “Drug costs will rise as a result of this deal. Now more than ever, Canada needs a universal, single-payer prescription drug program to cancel out the impact of mounting costs on Canadian families,” said Yussuff.

Access to Canadian dairy was a focus through the negotiations. Under the new USMCA, US dairy producers will have access to 3.59% of Canada’s domestic milk market. “The federal government must take necessary measures and provide compensation to workers who will be negatively impacted by these concessions. Canada’s unions are concerned and seeking more details on provisions around egg and poultry exports and imports,” said Yussuff.

Yussuff expressed disappointment that the elimination of US tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum products was not part of the new agreement. “The illegal steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by the US earlier this year should have been lifted with this agreement, and I urge the Canadian government to redouble its efforts to eliminate these tariffs,” he said.

Canada’s unions will be reviewing the agreement more closely in the coming days and will continue to monitor ongoing discussions, as full details of the agreement have not yet been made public.

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June 21, 2018

Story

Public-sector freeze unfair to workers

As published in the Winnipeg Free Press

Manitobans believe we should treat each other fairly and with respect, and we expect the same from our government. Unfortunately, fairness and respect do not appear to be values the Pallister government holds when it comes to the dedicated public-sector workers who work hard every day to deliver the services we all count on.

As a result of the government’s blatant disregard for the rights of working people, the Partnership to Defend Public Services — a coalition of 29 unions and labour organizations — is taking the Pallister government to court to stand up for the constitutionally protected right to free and fair collective bargaining.

For many years, Manitoba has avoided major labour unrest and experienced relatively few strikes and lockouts. This stable labour-relations climate was good for working families and for businesses alike, helping to support good, stable jobs and growing our economy.

This period of labour peace did not happen by accident. It was supported in our province by clear and fair rules that carefully and sensibly balanced the interests of workers and employers in the workplace to ensure fairness. Government worked with labour and business to support an environment in which collective bargaining could take place in a free and fair fashion and deals could be negotiated that worked for both sides.

When problems emerged, all parties came to the table and worked through them, together. They talked, they listened, they tried to understand each other’s perspectives, they problem-solved and they found compromises.

The preamble to Manitoba’s Labour Relations Act sets out the importance of collective bargaining: "It is in the public interest of the Province of Manitoba to further harmonious relations between employers and employees by encouraging the practice and procedure of collective bargaining between employers and unions as the freely designated representatives of employees." Collective bargaining has been affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada as a right protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Collective bargaining works for several reasons. First, it requires workers to come together and prioritize things such as safer working conditions, fair wages and retirement plans and then negotiate their narrowed-down list with their employer.

Second, collective bargaining requires compromise. Just as employers do not want to see their operations halted, workers do not want to see the services they provide affected, or the paycheques their families rely on disappear.

And last, the process provides stability for workers and employers through the life of the contract. In other words, a deal is a deal.

But this process has been undermined by the Pallister government, which used the heavy hand of legislation to freeze the wages of more than 120,000 public-sector workers in Manitoba, without even coming to the bargaining table to try to negotiate a deal. Bill 28, the so-called Public Services Sustainability Act, tramples on the collective bargaining rights of the workers who provide public services to all Manitobans.

These workers keep our province moving, providing health care to those who are sick and injured, educating our young people, taking care of the water and forests that we all enjoy, making sure our roadways are safe and doing hundreds of other jobs we all rely on every day.

The act fundamentally undermines their right to a fair collective-bargaining process. And in that way, it’s unfair and it’s unconstitutional.

To be clear, this right doesn’t guarantee workers any particular outcome from collective bargaining, but it does guarantee the right to engage in a meaningful process of collective bargaining. It requires employers and unions to come to the bargaining table and try, in good faith, to negotiate a collective agreement.

Manitoba’s public-sector unions were willing to come to the table with practical ideas to help reduce the deficit, but the Pallister government was never serious about consulting. They opted to legislate rather than negotiate, so public-sector unions had no choice but to challenge their unconstitutional law in court.

We all have a part to play in working toward a balanced budget. In campaigning during the last provincial election, Brian Pallister promised to protect front-line services and respect the workers who deliver them. But balancing the budget should not come at the expense of the public services that Manitoba families count on, or the dedicated Manitobans who provide them.

As unions have always done, we will continue to stand up for workers, and for fair treatment and fair compensation for the hard work that they do. And we will be there to push back against the Pallister government’s plans to cut services and hurt working families in our province.

- Kevin Rebeck is the president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour.

 

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Wednesday, March 27, 2019 at 12:00 pm until Wednesday, March 27, 2019 at 1:00 pm

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From Talk to Table: Strike 1919

Saturday, April 06, 2019 at 2:00 pm until Saturday, April 06, 2019 at 4:30 pm

Manitoba Museum and Little Brown Jug Brewery

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019 at 12:00 pm until Wednesday, April 10, 2019 at 1:00 pm

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Sunday, April 14, 2019 at 2:00 pm

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Union Centre Auditorium, 275 Broadway Winnipeg

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Thursday, May 02, 2019 at 6:30 pm

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Ukrainian Labour Temple, 591 Pritchard Ave. Winnipeg

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Manitoba Museum and Little Brown Jug Brewery

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