Dear Union members,
We wanted to take the time to share this with you, as something that effects one union, affects all unions.
This was found in Tuesdays, November 22nd issue of the Brandon Sun.
Pallister Tories ready to take on the unions
Premier Brian Pallister’s government has decided to take aim at the rising costs of public sector wages in its bid to cut down on government spending.
And in the process, it has signalled a willingness to take on the province’s labour unions — a 180-degree change of direction from the former NDP government’s unionfriendly, pro-collective bargaining stance.
In its throne speech on Monday, the Manitoba Progressive Conservative government announced that it will introduce legislation “to ensure that the province’s publicsector costs do not exceedManitobans’ ability to sustain the services they receive in return,” read the speech as given by Lt.-Gov. Janice Filmon.
Earlier, Pallister told Winnipeg media that he would outline full details of the proposed legislation in the coming days. However, he did say that it would apply to collective bargaining and arbitration, and that agreements with public-sector workers would have to take into account the ability of Manitobans to pay.
“Our No. 1 category of expenditure— across government, in the public service — is, of course, wages,” Pallister told The Canadian Press, adding that some recent contract settlements have been “excessive.”
The premier would not rule out trying to imposeawage freeze, and said he was waiting for the settlement of a faculty strike at the University of Manitoba, where a tentative deal was being voted on Monday.
“We have tremendous respect for the people who work in our system and want them to be fairly paid. But we cannot fail to get a handle on the out-of-control spending growth that we’ve seen over the last number of years, which has gone up by over two and a half times the rate of inflation in the last decade.”
Last June, the provincial Tories introduced Bill 7 that would end the practice of automatic certification for newunions, should 65 per cent of a given workforce sign union cards. That legislation, which amended the Labour Relations Act to require a secret vote in workplaces before a bargaining unit would receive union certification, was seen by labour groups as the opening salvo of awave of unionbusting legislation to come.
It would appear they were correct. But all things considered, they should have seen this coming and not just because a right-wing government took office. To the average taxpayer, this is what the Tories were elected to do — take control of the NDP’s out-ofcontrol spending habit, and findaway to tame salary increases for public employees.
Whether these changes will affect union wages at the municipal level was somewhat unclear yesterday, though it is true that the provincial Labour Relations Act governs how all unions operate in the province.
In the pages of the Brandon Sun over the last several years, we have often written about the rising cost of salaries — everything from teachers at Brandon School Division and faculty at Brandon University, to the rising salaries of Brandon firefighters and paramedics and those of the police service.
One comment made to the Sun three years ago by Wade Ritchie, president of the Brandon Professional Firefighters/Paramedics Association stuck in our minds. It was the same year that the city and union negotiations ultimately had to be settled by arbitration, after the union had been asking for a 21 per cent pay hike over four years. The city had only been offering six per cent over three years— two per cent increases for 2012, 2013 and 2014.
“We are relieved that we’re finally at the point that we’re going to plead our case and get it known to the public,” Ritchie said. “It’s frustrating because the cost of living goes up and wages don’t go up.”
This, even though the city’s 2012 public salary disclosure report showed that 41 average firefighters were making well over the $50,000 threshold — 19 made between $80,000 and $108,000, while 18 others were in the $70,000 to $80,000.
Yes, some of that comes down to overtime, but compared to the average citizen, those are still very comfortable wages.
Ultimately, the arbitrated settlement came to a retroactive 11.5 per cent pay hike for those three years. Just this year, the city ratified a new six-year contract with the firefighters union, that will see union members get a 17.25 per cent salary boost over that time period.
As we have said before on this page, these constant large increases continue — either through arbitration or negotiation — because municipal governments have the ability to go back to the well of taxpayer cash to fund them, and arbitration boards know this. However, this model is simply not sustainable.
We do believe that all members of our society are entitled to fair compensation for the valuable work they do. But there must be balance. Constantly going back to the taxpayer is not the best option. Yet given the flood of rancour by union members and NDP MLAs on social media following the throne speech yesterday, there doesn’t seem to be any appetite to work with the province for a more sustainable model.
As such, we can only expect this Pallister labour war to escalate.
Copyright (c) Brandon Sun Edition 11/22/2016