As many of you know, your union, along with all of the other unions in Manitoba that represent health care and public sector workers, has been meeting with government since early in 2017 to consult with them on legislative changes that affect those workers. I am your representative on the Fiscal Working Group that is focused on public sector financing and costs and Bea Bruske is your representative on the Healthcare Restructuring Working Group.
Despite the government repeatedly telling both committees that they are open to listening to our ideas, they recently tabled Bill 28 and Bill 29 and have announced management job cuts in the public sector at Manitoba Hydro and the WRHA as well as pulling back a billion dollars of capital spending on health care facilities and closing three Winnipeg emergency rooms. Both committees have proposed reasonable ways to fix the health care system and balance the budget in their stated timeline, but government has refused to listen to those proposals and instead legislated changes that the labour movement believes will not achieve their goals and will cause unnecessary disruption and financial distress to many of our members.
By way of a timeline update, the Fiscal Working Group scheduled a meeting with government after their budget was tabled on April 11 and that meeting was set for Friday April 21. On April 18, we had a presentation from Michael Benarroch, who is a professor of business from the Asper College, who reviewed our proposal to government and he confirmed that Labour’s proposal to reach a balanced budget in 8 years was sound. He confirmed that the government’s approach to freezing wages by legislation was unnecessary – a position we have taken all along.
So on the next day, April 19, we wrote to government in advance of our scheduled meeting to share that information with them and to ask for clarification on why they went forward with legislation before our consultations were complete. We also asked for a response to our proposal (which was printed in the Winnipeg Free Press in March – and we still have not had any meaningful reply from government. They continue to tell us that our submission is under review. Later that same day, government informed us that they were cancelling our meeting on April 21 and that they would get back to us regarding rescheduling the meeting.
We continue to be concerned that this government has its mind made up to legislate the changes it wants. They really aren’t interested in listening the public sector workers or us, who are concerned about both their jobs and their right to collective bargaining.
As soon as I have any more information about the Fiscal Working Group I will update you immediately.
President Local 832