Manitoba government had 'no open mind' before introducing wage-freeze bill, unions argue

Manitoba government had 'no open mind' before introducing wage-freeze bill, unions argue

The Manitoba government’s public sector wage freeze legislation is already interfering in negotiations with workers even though it hasn’t been proclaimed into law, lawyers for the Manitoba Federation of Labour and several public sector unions argued in court Tuesday.

Over two days of hearings, the unions will seek a temporary injunction to stop the provincial government from proclaiming the Public Services Sustainability Act, which was passed in spring 2017.

During negotiations prior to the bill’s introduction in March 2017, the unions offered alternative solutions to the province’s financial challenges, including reducing overtime costs, delaying a cut to the PST or working to negotiate larger federal transfers, said union lawyer Garth Smorang.

Smorang argued the government negotiated in bad faith, because it had already decided to impose wage controls with the legislation.

“The die was cast, there was no open mind,” Smorang said.

Even though it’s not proclaimed, it’s having the effect of being proclaimed.– Kevin Rebeck

Six union contracts either expired before the bill was introduced, or have expired since then, Smorang said.

Employers are using the act to justify delaying negotiations, or imposing wage caps in compliance with the two-year freezes, followed by 0.75 and one per cent in the next two years, said Manitoba Federation of Labour president Kevin Rebeck.

“Even though it’s not proclaimed, it’s having the effect of being proclaimed,” he said.

He pointed to the fact that collective bargaining with health workers hasn’t begun. If any employer agrees to wage increases above those set out in the act, it stipulates that those increases must be clawed back by the government, he said.

After Justice James Edmond delivers his decision on the temporary injunction, another date must be set to decide whether the act violates workers’ constitutional rights to collective bargaining.

The hearings resume Tuesday afternoon.


Published at Tue, 29 May 2018 15:34:37 -0400