Brian Pallister’s Manitoba government teamed up with ‘high-priced consultants’ to weaken workers’ rights
Wage freezes, deteriorating working conditions and attacks on workers’ rights. Workers in Manitoba have taken a beating under Premier Brian Pallister’s austerity government, labour groups say.
With an election set for September 10, labour leaders warn more damage will be done under a second Pallister government.
Here are a few highlights:
1. The Minimum wage freeze
Despite calling poverty the last election’s top issue, Pallister actually froze the minimum wage, upon forming government.
Manitoba’s minimum wage currently sits below the poverty line, at $11.35 per hour, the second lowest in the country.
“For 16 years, the minimum wage was increasing beyond inflation. We calculated a living wage is about $15 an hour. The first thing this government did was freeze it and then index it to poverty levels,” Kevin Rebeck, President of the Manitoba Federation of Labour told PressProgress.
“It begs the question who is this government listening to? When Manitobans give advice and come to a consensus, and they don’t listen, It begs the question who are they serving?”
Molly McCracken, Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives told PressProgress the current minimum wage is “not based on the cost of living at all. If you measure it by the poverty line, a living wage is closer to $16. They’re not connecting the dots between minimum wage and poverty.”
2. Public sector wage cuts
In 2017, Pallister froze wages for Manitoba’s public servants, without any consultation with workers or relevant unions. That sparked an on ongoing legal challenge.
“They froze the wages of 120,000 manitoban workers without even setting foot at a bargaining table,” Rebeck said. “How that grows and builds an economy is a mystery.”
3. Pallister’s “efficiencies” caused a health care crisis
Nurses are burning out, working overtime and dealing with deteriorating work conditions as Manitobans await the third ER closure since the PCs took power.
Pallister’s government began merging Manitoba’s health services to find “efficiencies” soon after forming government. That’s increased workloads and caused ongoing problems for health care workers.
Health care workers are now being forced into a stressful, unsafe situations, according to the Manitoba Federation of Labour.
The final ER closure is scheduled for later this summer.
4. Card check certification
Manitoba’s unions note the right to organize in the workplace also came under attack under Bill 7. The legislation eliminated card-check certification, making it easier for employers to interfere with union organizing drives.
Card check guarantees union certification if over 65% of employees sign union cards. The new policy says if the majority of workers sign cards, they need to have a second vote after that and secure a second majority.
The changes give employers more chance to intimidate employees out of exercising their rights to associate.
“Bill 7 made it harder for people to join unions. We now have instances where employers game the system and interfered in unionization,” Rebeck said.
“There’s now almost an incentive to intimidate and pressure employees from organizing.”