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March 29, 2020

Health & Safety

Manitoba Federation of Labour urges increased funding for Workplace Safety and Health to respond to increased demands of COVID-19 pandemic

(Winnipeg) - The Manitoba Federation of Labour (MFL) is urging the Pallister government to immediately restore $500,000 in funding cuts to Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health to help the branch meet the increased demands of the COVID-19 pandemic, MFL President Kevin Rebeck announced today.

“A pandemic is a bad time to cut workplace safety and health, but Manitoba’s Budget 2020 does just that,” said Rebeck. “We need our workplace safety and health officers to be well-equipped and fully-resourced to be able to respond to workplace concerns about COVID-19, as well as to provide information to workers and employers to help them prevent the spread of the virus.”

Trained provincial safety and health officers are best-placed to educate and respond to worker and employer questions and concerns about preventing COVID-19 transmission on the job. These officers should also be equipped with personal protective equipment when physically responding to workplace investigations.

Rebeck added that with new rules in place to limit public gatherings, Manitoba’s workplaces remain the largest congregations of people in our province, and so ensuring they remain safe is critically important to the overall public health response to COVID-19. These funding cuts to the branch affects the ability for safety and health officers and staff to be able to inspect workplaces and help respond to workers concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We know that Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health is receiving increased requests for information about how to keep workplaces safe during this pandemic, and workers are wondering about their right to refuse unsafe work,” said Rebeck. “We hope that the Pallister government will do the right thing and increase funding for this important front-line service.”

Manitoba’s unions have been flooded with calls about the pandemic from workers who are raising concerns of the safety of their workplaces and what prevention measures their workplaces should take to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The province has released a number of public health orders that focused on public gatherings, the hospitality, retail and transportation sectors, but did not speak to other industries that depend daily on large workforces. 

                                                                                                    

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March 23, 2020

MFL News WCB

Manitoba Federation of Labour calls for workers compensation coverage for workers exposed to COVID-19 on the job

Statement by MFL President Kevin Rebeck about the need for workers exposed to COVID-19 on the job to be covered under Workers Compensation immediately:

With the growing number of cases of COVID-19 in our province, the Manitoba Federation of Labour has written to the Minister of Finance to highlight the urgent need to put a plan in place to ensure workers exposed to COVID-19 on the job are covered by workers compensation.

Even with many Manitobans in isolation or practicing self-distancing measures, we are all still relying on many workers to attend their jobs to provide health care services, operate grocery stores and pharmacies, deliver meals, transport essential goods, and maintain vital transit, infrastructure, community and emergency services, as well as other desperately needed services like child care and flying Canadians home from abroad.

Many are putting themselves at greater risk to exposure to COVID-19 to help us all. We owe it to them to provide presumptive workers compensation coverage for all Manitobans who contract COVID-19 during the course of their employment. 

This would provide some assurance that they can continue to provide for their families if they are required to self-quarantine or seek hospitalization. The time to act is now.

You can read the letter here

                                        

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March 19, 2020

MFL News

MANITOBA FEDERATION OF LABOUR STATEMENT ON THE PROVINCIAL BUDGET

Statement by MFL President Kevin Rebeck on the Provincial Government Budget

We realize that this budget was originally meant to be introduced last week, but our province and economy have changed dramatically since then. 

We need an emergency economic action plan that meets our new realities: large numbers of workers experiencing reduced shifts and layoffs, schools and child-care centres shut down, businesses and non-profit organizations closing, and workers and their families struggling to stay afloat.

Working families in Manitoba, and our economy and health care system are all facing unprecedented challenges. The budget as presented does not reflect the new realities Manitoba workers are facing.

Manitobans are worried about their health and their ability to pay the bills over the coming weeks. They are worried about keeping their jobs or having jobs to come back to. People are looking to their government for support in navigating the uncertain economic times ahead. And they are looking for increased investments to meet our increased health care needs, not the flat-lined funding for health care that this budget presents.

We are calling on the Pallister government to take a necessary first step and make a clear commitment to all working Manitobans to immediately implement 14 days of job-protected leave. People need all the support they can get right now, from all levels of government.

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March 19, 2020

MFL News

Manitoba Federation of Labour Calls for 14 days of paid leave for all workers amid COVID-19 pandemic

Statement by MFL President Kevin Rebeck on the need for the Government of Manitoba to immediately implement 14 days of paid job-protected leave for all Manitoba workers:

Throughout our province, workers are increasingly being asked to stay home while we all confront the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools and post-secondary institutions are closed or closing, child-care centres are suspending services, and businesses and non-profit organizations are scaling back or voluntarily shutting down to play their part in managing the COVID-19 outbreak.

Manitobans are worried, and they are looking to their government for support to survive the financial and economic uncertainty ahead. Over the coming days and months, governments will need to enact a number of measures to protect the economic security of workers, families, and communities.

All of these things are being done in the interest of public health. But it also means that as each day goes by more workers will be off work and missing a paycheque. Protecting public health is fundamentally important, but so is the ability for workers to keep paying the bills.

Today, Manitoba Federation of Labour President Kevin Rebeck has sent the attached letter to the Premier of Manitoba, the Minister of Finance, the Leader of the Official Opposition, and the Leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party to call on the Government of Manitoba to act quickly to make sure that all workers are supported financially with 14 days of paid job-protected leave if they stay home because they are self-isolating, sick, caring for children, or because their employer has made the decision to shut down or scale back operations in the interest of public health.

 

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March 13, 2020

MFL News

Amidst COVID-19 pandemic, MFL President Kevin Rebeck calls on Government of Manitoba to provide paid leave for all Manitoba workers

President Kevin Rebeck has written this letter to the Premier of Manitoba calling for the Government of Manitoba to immediately implement 14 days of job-protected leave for all Manitoba workers, to help them if they need to self-isolate or care for a loved one due to COVID-19.

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March 12, 2020

MFL News General

Fighting for working families in the legislature

Dear Sisters, Brothers and Friends,

I know many were surprised by the procedural delays in the legislature yesterday by the Manitoba NDP. To be clear, we are glad to see that one party in the Legislature is interested in fighting legislation that will be bad for working people in our province.

Our understanding is that the Pallister government could have introduced the budget yesterday, and they are able to now, but they are choosing not to. The NDP is using every tool in its toolkit to make sure we have enough time to organize opposition to legislation that the Pallister government wants to ram through the legislature this spring, including legislation that will weaken the rights of working people and unions. They are doing this because they are on our side. They are on the side of working families.

In Solidarity,

Kevin Rebeck

President of the Manitoba Federation of Labour

 

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February 21, 2020

MFL News General

Trial challenging Pallister wage-freeze legislation concludes

The trial for the constitutional challenge to the Pallister government’s Public Services Sustainability Act has now concluded.

We are proud to stand up for the rights of working people, but we wish that this government had respected these rights and met at the bargaining table, not the courtroom.

One of the most shocking things we learned from the government’s closing arguments is that they have actually given up on trying to convince anyone there was a fiscal crisis in our province. Remember how often Brian Pallister said in the lead up to this legislation that it was needed because of Manitoba’s finances? Well, it seems his own government and its lawyers don’t even believe that. Brian Pallister is just making it up as he goes along.

The Pallister government’s heavy-handed wage freeze law fundamentally undermines the constitutionally-protected right to collective bargaining, and this court case has been about protecting the right for workers.

We are proud of the case that we put forward on behalf of working people. I want to thank all of Manitoba’s unions who supported this, and to our excellent legal team for their dedication.

- Kevin Rebeck, President of the Manitoba Federation of Labour

 

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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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