Manitoba premier says he wants to work with labour leaders in province
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WINNIPEG — Premier Brian Pallister could be bracing for a battle with Manitoba’s public sector unions.
On Monday, the premier hinted rolling back wages by opening up existing contracts with provincial workers might be on the table — after the throne speech pledge last week to legislate limits on salary hikes.
Pallister said something has to be done to tackle the province's near $900 million deficit and keeping spending under control would fulfil a key campaign promise.
But on Tuesday, Pallister said there is no plan on the table; he simply wants to meet with labour bosses and work it out together.
He said the magnitude of problems sometimes challenges causes people to do things that are right even though they don’t think they're in their best short-term interests.
Two of Manitoba's largest unions, the Manitoba Government Employees Union and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said opening up current deals is never going to happen.
"If a fight is what he wants, a fight is what he will get,” said Kelly Moist, CUPE president.
University of Manitoba labour studies professor Julie Guard said if Pallister ignores the collective bargaining process and imposes wage cuts, this could end up in court with no end in sight.
"This could take forever and meanwhile it would be very hard on the public sector," Guard said.
However, the premier said he's not looking for a fight.
"I'm doing my very, very best to protect all front-line workers,” Pallister said.