NDP alleges government forcing Hydro to put in wage freeze for workers

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba NDP says it has obtained a letter calling on Manitoba Hydro to implement a wage freeze for workers.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew made the announcement Friday afternoon at the Manitoba legislature, saying the letter was from the Minister of Crown Services Jeff Wharton and Finance Minister Scott Fielding. The letter is asking the Crown corporation to not increase wages for the next two years.

Kinew said the decision is not the right one during a tough economic climate.

“It’s a bad move in any time because that’s not fair bargaining when you’ve predetermined the outcome, but particularly during a recession, when we know that keeping people working and keeping people earning a decent paycheque is so, so important to getting us out of the recession,” he said. “It just compounds the wrong in that situation.”

The letter says bargaining can resume in mid-2021 when there are “less unknowns about COVID-19.”

“The premier and his cabinet are using COVID as cover to push forward an unconstitutional wage freeze on thousands of Manitoba Hydro workers who had expected marginal wage increases this year and the next,” said Adrien Sala, the NDP critic for Manitoba Hydro.

CTV News reached out to Wharton’s office and received a statement saying they have set broad public sector mandates.

“We have done this in an open and transparent way, recognizing the unprecedented challenges caused by COVID-19,” Wharton said in the statement. “Many Manitobans have experienced outright job losses and we continue to offer a broad range of assistance and stabilization programs for them, while making massive investments in public health, safety, and protection.

“We appreciate the efforts of all Manitobans, including public sector unions and employees, as we lead an all hands on deck approach to fighting the pandemic while avoiding layoffs and keeping taxes low.”

CTV News has also reached out to Manitoba Hydro but has not yet heard back. 

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