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November 24, 2021

MFL News

Partnership to Defend Public Services responds to wage-freeze law repeal

Statement by Kevin Rebeck, president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour, on behalf of the Partnership to Defend Public Services:
 

The Partnership to Defend Public Services welcomes the repeal of the Public Services Sustainability Act (Bill 28) as an important and long overdue step. Manitoba’s unions have been calling for this to happen for over four years. This harmful law has, and continues to negatively impact 120,000 working families, people who work hard every day to deliver the public services that we all count on. 

In fact, thousands of public sector workers remain without a contract today because of the damage this law caused to the collective bargaining process in the public sector.

As we announced several weeks ago, Manitoba’s unions are seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada in order to get a definitive ruling on the constitutionality of this wage-freeze legislation. Today’s announcement does not change that. As Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench and Court of Appeal issued drastically different rulings, we believe it is essential to have the law made clear for everyone by the Supreme Court. We trust that the government agrees as its news release highlights the importance of resolving the constitutionality of this legislation.

 If the Stefanson government is serious about wanting to reset the relationship with workers and unions, we call on them to stop interfering in public sector bargaining and to make a clear and genuine commitment that the government will also not oppose our application to have the Supreme Court consider the constitutionality of wage-freeze legislation.

 We know that collective bargaining works when it is fair. It is a tried and tested process that allows workers and employers to reach fair deals that make sense for both sides. We hope that today's announcement is the first step in this government recognizing the value of free and fair collective bargaining for workers in Manitoba. 

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November 23, 2021

MFL News

President Rebeck's response to 2021 Throne Speech

 We have been calling on Premier Stefanson to reset the provincial government’s relationship with unions and workers, and while this throne speech certainly takes a different tone than Brian Pallister, what will matter are this government’s actions in the coming months.

While we are glad to see some of the commitments on health care, we know that much more will need to be done to rebuild the system after years of cuts and chaos under Brian Pallister. Thousands of health care workers are still without a contract because of the mess that the Pallister government made in public sector bargaining and we know that Manitoba is facing chronic staffing shortages in health care.

We also encourage this government to stop interfering in contract negotiations between the University of Manitoba Faculty Association and the University of Manitoba, so that both sides can reach a fair deal that ensures high quality education for U of M students.

Manitoba needs a real economic recovery plan focused on good jobs that allow families to pay the bills. COVID-19 continues to impact our communities and our economy, including low-income workers. These workers are falling behind as our minimum wage continues to sit near the bottom of the country, but this government has no plan to lift minimum wage workers out of poverty by making the minimum wage a living wage.

This government also continues to refuse to ensure that all workers have access to paid sick days on the job, meaning many Manitobans are forced to choose between going to work sick to put food on the table and staying home to protect public health. That’s not a sensible approach to protecting public health.

Finally, we are concerned about this government’s continued attempts to force the City of Winnipeg into accepting a risky public-private partnership to upgrade the North End sewage treatment plant. This plan will put local jobs and services at risk, and the city has recommended against it.

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November 3, 2021

MFL News General

PDPS will seek leave from Supreme Court of Canada to hear wage-freeze appeal

The Partnership to Defend Public Services (PDPS) will be seeking leave from the Supreme Court of Canada to hear an appeal of Government of Manitoba’s public sector wage-freeze legislation, announced Manitoba Federation of Labour President Kevin Rebeck on behalf of the PDPS.

“Over 120,000 public sector workers and their families are relying on Manitoba’s unions to have their backs when it comes to their right to collective bargaining,” said Rebeck. “When we launched our constitutional challenge to the Pallister government’s wage-freeze law, we knew it would not be a quick process. But we will always stick up for the rights of workers.”

In October, the Manitoba Court of Appeal overturned a ruling by the Court of Queen’s Bench that the Pallister government’s public sector wage-freeze law (Bill 28) was unconstitutional. Rebeck added that while it is up to the Supreme Court to decide whether to hear an appeal, the PDPS will be putting strong legal arguments forward on behalf of working families.

“We won round one and government won round two. Now we are asking the Supreme Court to consider round three,” said Rebeck. “Manitoba’s dedicated public sector workers have been there for us, before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. They deserve to have their rights respected by government.”

Rebeck added that the PDPS has until mid-December to submit their leave application to the Supreme Court. 

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October 13, 2021

MFL News

Partnership to Defend Public Services disappointed by Court of Appeal ruling, but will continue to fight for the right to free and fair collective bargaining

The Partnership to Defend Public Services (PDPS) is disappointed by today’s Manitoba Court of Appeal decision, but remains committed to standing up for workers and their right to free and fair collective bargaining, announced Manitoba Federation of Labour President Kevin Rebeck today on behalf of the PDPS. 

“While this is not the outcome we were hoping for, we will continue to fight for the rights of workers to collective bargaining,” said Rebeck. “We will be reviewing the Court of Appeal’s ruling in detail and we expect to come to a decision about our next steps in the near future, including the prospect of an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.”

While the Court of Appeal decision overturns last year’s ruling by the Court of Queen’s Bench that the Pallister government’s public sector wage-freeze law (Bill 28) was unconstitutional, Rebeck added that Charter challenges are rarely quick or easy processes. 

Rebeck noted that the PDPS is pleased that the Court of Appeal upheld that the government did interfere in the collective bargaining process between the University of Manitoba Faculty Association and the University of Manitoba in 2016. 

“We respect the ruling made by the Court of Appeal, but we are proud of the strong arguments our team put forward at court,” said Rebeck. “Over 120,000 public sector workers and their families are relying on Manitoba’s unions to have their backs when it comes to their right to collective bargaining.”

Rebeck added that the provincial government has continually thanked Manitoba’s public sector workers for their service throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and highlighted that if the government truly valued these workers, then it would stop fighting them in court and stay out of their way while they negotiate fair deals with their employers.

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You can find the decision here.

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August 23, 2021

Pensions Story

Pallister government weakens pension security for Manitobans

Dear Sisters, Brothers and Friends,

As you will recall, this past spring the Pallister government passed legislative changes to the Pension Benefits Act that will weaken retirement security for Manitobans. The Pallister government has now passed a Regulation (link below) which brings some of these changes into force effective October 1, 2021. The most concerning changes deal with unlocking provisions.

· Under the new rules, individuals, regardless of their age, with funds in Manitoba locked-in accounts will be able to unlock funds in the event of certain financial hardships (such as low expected income, eviction for rental arrears, mortgage foreclosure and medical/dental expenses not covered by other insurance/government programs). While we certainly appreciate that individuals might face dire financial hardship, people are almost always better off leaving their money in pension plans. As we said to government at committee in the spring, any unlocking changes should be coupled with financial literacy tools to help individuals make informed decisions, as most Manitobans are not financial planning or pension plan experts. Making these changes without making such tools available is just unfair and irresponsible.

· In addition, individuals aged 65 and over will have the option to unlock all money in Manitoba locked-in accounts with a financial institution. This is a risky plan that opens up Manitobans to be preyed upon by mutual fund managers wanting to extract sizeable commissions by having people gamble their money in the market rather than the reliability of regular pension payments. 

· The new regulation also changes the division of pension assets in the event of a relationship breakdown, so that pension assets will not necessarily have to be split 50-50.

The Pallister government's other key pension promise to reduce solvency requirements for defined pension plans from 100 per cent to 85 per cent has not been included in this most recent regulatory change, although we are advised to expect this change to be made sometime this fall. We will update you when that occurs. 

You can view all of the details included in this regulatory change to the Pension Benefits Act in detail at: https://web2.gov.mb.ca/laws/regs/annual/2021/063.pdf

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May 11, 2021

MFL News

President Kevin Rebeck's statement on Manitoba's paid vaccination leave

Statement by MFL President Kevin Rebeck on today’s changes to Employment Standards to provide for Paid Vaccination Leave:

Today the Pallister government introduced changes to the Employment Standards Code to ensure that all workers have access to up to three hours of paid leave to get their COVID-19 vaccines. This will ensure that workers won’t lose pay for doing the right thing and getting vaccinated.

The MFL advocated for this paid leave along with the other members of the labour caucus of the Labour Management Review Committee. We were glad to build agreement and consensus support from the employers who also sit on that committee. 

 Today's announcement shows the importance of legislating paid leave to remove barriers to protecting public health, instead of setting up voluntary programs like the Pallister government has done for paid sick days. We encourage the government to take immediate action to protect public health by legislating paid sick days for all workers now.

You can find more information here.

 

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May 7, 2021

MFL News Health & Safety

Pallister government fails to ensure paid sick days for all workers in Manitoba

Statement by Manitoba Federation of Labour President Kevin Rebeck in response to the Manitoba Pandemic Sick Leave Program:

No one should be forced to choose between putting food on the table and staying home when they are sick to protect public health. The financial support program for employers announced today will not ensure all workers in Manitoba have access to paid sick days.

The program is voluntarily, not legislated like Ontario’s paid sick days program, so it will only apply to workplaces that decide to provide paid sick days. A provincial program meant to fill the gaps of the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit shouldn’t create more gaps by design. All workers should have access to paid sick days, regardless of their employer’s decisions.

We fear that, like many other employer support programs announced by this government, the intent here is to pay out as little as possible. With new and more contagious variants of COVID-19 spreading throughout Canada, there is an urgent need for government to put paid sick days in place for all workers to remove barriers to protecting public health. 

We are also concerned that the government is not providing three hours of paid vaccination leave like other western provinces, even though employers and labour have recommended it through the Labour Management Review Committee. No one should lose income for doing the right thing to protect public health. 

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April 20, 2021

MFL News Health & Safety WCB

Internal Workers Compensation Board report confirms over 1,200 cases of workplace transmission of COVID-19

An internal report by the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba (WCB) reveals that there were over 1,200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 transmissions at Manitoba workplaces over the past year, Manitoba Federation of Labour (MFL) President Kevin Rebeck announced today. The report, obtained through a freedom of information request, shows the desperate need for permanent paid sick days in Manitoba, added Rebeck. 

“Far too many workers face the impossible choice between putting food on the table and protecting public health by staying home when they are sick because they don’t have paid sick days on the job,” said Rebeck. “With new and more contagious variants of COVID-19 spreading throughout Canada, there is an urgent need for government to put paid sick days in place for all workers.”

The internal report shows that between March 1, 2020 and February 28, 2021, the WCB accepted 1,227 COVID-19 claims. This means that there have been at least 1,227 cases of COVID-19 transmission at workplaces in Manitoba. Rebeck noted that these numbers would not include any eligible workers who were unaware that they could submit a WCB claim and would not include occupations that are not covered by the WCB, such as teachers. 

“Paid sick days would help to protect public health by allowing sick workers to stay home without leaving them out of pocket,” said Rebeck. “The need to protect public health and paycheques, during this pandemic and beyond, is simply too great for government to ignore.”

Rebeck noted that the federal government’s Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit has been a small step forward to help workers impacted by COVID-19, but it falls far short of what is needed. The benefit is temporary by design and interrupts workers’ income, requiring them to apply and then wait for the benefit to arrive. The benefit only replaces a fraction of lost pay for many workers. Rebeck urged the provincial government to move quickly on ensuring permanent paid sick days for all workers in Manitoba.

The MFL is calling for the establishment of 10 permanent paid sick days for all Manitoba workers, as well as an additional 10 days to be made available to workers in times of public health emergencies. Only 42 per cent of working Canadians who are older than 18 years report having access to paid sick days at work, according to the 2020 Annual Report of the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada. 

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April 7, 2021

MFL News

MFL Responds to 2021 Provincial Budget

After an exhausting and difficult year, working families are looking for strategic investments to rebuild our economy, strengthen the public services we count on, protect workplace safety and health, and pick up the pace on vaccinations. 

Like many Manitobans, I was disappointed to hear that the Health Minister is satisfied with the pace of vaccinations. This government is nowhere near the 20,000 vaccinations a day it claimed it could administer. We need to see more urgency from the Pallister government - public health and our economy depend on it.  

Government should be leading the recovery through forward-looking plans to protect our economic future, with the goal of maintaining employment and getting thousands of Manitobans back to work in fairly paid, family supporting jobs. And with so many women forced out of the workforce by this pandemic, child care needs are a top priority for working families. But this government has no plan to create desperately needed affordable child care spaces.  

This budget also continues the Pallister government's obsession with imposed wage freezes, rather than letting workers negotiate fair contracts. That does nothing to support working families and grow our economy. 

Brian Pallister and his Finance Minister Scott Fielding continue to stubbornly focus on the money but not the needs of working families.

-Kevin Rebeck, President of the Manitoba Federation of Labour 

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February 25, 2021

MFL News General

Joint Statement by Canada’s Provincial and Territorial Federations of Labour

We can’t afford to wait. It’s time for paid sick days for every worker in Canada.

In advance of the federal, provincial and territorial labour ministers’ meeting, provincial and territorial federations of labour are united in demanding that provincial and territorial governments guarantee seamless access to universal, permanent and adequate employer-paid sick days for all workers.

More than half of all Canadian workers have no access to paid sick leave. When they’re sick, they face an impossible choice between making ends meet and staying home to protect public health and get better. It’s a decision nobody should have to make. 

Workplace outbreaks and transmissions during the COVID-19 pandemic have made it clear that paid sick leave is critical to protecting public health. Yet the gaps in coverage are huge, especially among low-wage workers. There’s an urgent need for immediate government action — especially with new, highly-contagious variants now spreading through our population.

It’s a public health imperative that sick workers stay home from work, and not just during the pandemic. Illnesses like influenza cause thousands of hospitalizations and deaths in Canada every year. By curbing the spread of infectious diseases, employer-paid sick days would protect public health while increasing workplace productivity, offering more stable income for workers and reducing health costs for governments.

The Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit is a small step forward, but it falls far short of what is needed. It’s temporary by design and restricted to COVID-related illness. It interrupts workers’ income, making them apply and then wait for the benefit to arrive. And the benefit itself only replaces a fraction of lost pay for many workers. While this new benefit helps, it isn’t universal and permanent paid sick leave.

Initially, some level of government support may be needed to offset costs for small and medium-sized businesses that have been severely affected by the pandemic. But the ultimate goal, in every province and territory, must be to ensure that every worker knows that when they are sick, they will not pay a financial penalty for doing the right thing and staying home to protect public health.

Public support for employer-paid sick days is strong throughout Canada. The need has never been more apparent or more urgent. We call on Canada’s labour ministers to prioritize the implementation of universal, permanent and adequate employer-paidpaid sick leave for all workers now.

This joint statement is being distributed on behalf the Alberta Federation of Labour, British Columbia Federation of Labour, Manitoba Federation of Labour, New Brunswick Federation of Labour, Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, Ontario Federation of Labour, Prince Edward Island Federation of Labour, Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and Yukon Federation of Labour.

 

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