Unions gather at Manitoba legislature to fight 'heavy-handed' collective bargaining cuts
Bill 28 will freeze the wages of 120,000 public-sector workers for two years, while Bill 29 will slash health-sector bargaining units in Winnipeg from 183 to seven.
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WINNIPEG — Manitoba unions gathered at the legislature in Winnipeg for committee hearings on two contentious bills being brought in by the provincial government.
Bill 28 will freeze the wages of 120,000 public-sector workers in the province for two years while Bill 29 will slash health-sector bargaining units in Winnipeg from 183 to seven.
Unions want both bills withdrawn.
Sandi Mowat, president of Manitoba Nurses Union, says this is a chance for the government to show nurses in the province that their hard work is of "utmost value."
Michelle Gawronsky, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union, says a fair wage package is what will ensure "the best and brightest stay in Manitoba."
Finance Minister Cameron Friesen says it's important the unions recognize the province is facing a $900 million deficit that needs attention.
"Do you believe that it's possible, with management and labour at the table, to be able to identify places where savings could be achieved?" he asked presenters at the meeting.
Friesen got the backing of Jonathan Alward of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, who commended the province for bringing forward the bill "to help address the province's unsustainable spending trends."
Alward said he values public-sector workers but said the province must deal with its deficit.
But most in the room said the government has shown no flexibility.
"It's clear that this government has been fixated on a single, heavy-handed legislative approach from the start," said Kevin Rebeck of the Manitoba Federation of Labour. "They've been close-minded to any alternatives, including coming to the bargaining table and trying to negotiate a fair deal."