Premier announces legislation that would freeze, cap public sector wages

In the election, Brian Pallister promised to protect front-line services and respect the people who deliver them. He’s publically acknowledged it, saying “it’s what we ran on and we will do as a government.”

In January, the PC Minister of Finance, Cam Friesen, invited Manitoba’s public sector unions to begin meeting with government to find solutions to return to balance responsibly, over an 8-year period as the government originally committed.

But since then, Pallister has closed a QuickCare Clinic, cancelled $1 billion in planned health care projects, and announced 900 layoffs to come at Manitoba Hydro. And he’s been clear: there’s more to come.

Every Manitoban wants to see the budget balanced, and we can all help get there. But the kind of deep cuts and austerity that Brian Pallister is pushing will do permanent damage.

Unions representing public sector workers and the Manitoba Federation of Labour took government’s invitation to meet seriously. And we presented alternatives that help Manitoba return to balance, without making life more expensive for everyday families.

Instead of engaging in the process, the government turned the tables. The Premier and the Finance Minister declined to meet with labour and instead sent staff who refused to discuss labour’s practical solutions or even share basic financial information.

Today, we were disappointed to see the government introduce heavy-handed legislation (Bill 28: The Public Services Sustainability Act) that would bypass the bargaining table and impose 4-years of wage freezes and wage caps for public sector workers - below the cost of living.

(Year 1: 0%; Year 2: 0%; Year 3: 0.75%; Year 4: 1%)

These freezes and caps will apply to the thousands of public sector workers who previously showed their willingness to be part of the solution, by agreeing - at the bargaining table - to two years of frozen wages already.

We know that bargaining is the proven way to find solutions that work for both employers and workers. We’d much rather try to work things out together, by talking and compromising at the bargaining table.

Public-sector unions and the Manitoba Federation of Labour are willing to come to the table and are prepared to work constructively with the government to find solutions that will protect public services and balance the provincial budget.

Balancing the budget should not come at the expense of the public services so many families count on or the people who provide them.

Despite repeatedly saying that "it’s all hands on deck," the premier last year allowed himself and his entire cabinet a 20 per cent increase in pay over the previous government. Balancing the budget, just doesn’t seem to include the Premier or his cabinet.

We wish we could say that this won’t be a prolonged struggle, but we all know that it will be. But through it all, you can count on public sector unions and and the Manitoba Federation of Labour to keep the government’s feet to the fire and keep fighting for you and your family.

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