Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Union balks at notion of bidding on city work

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THE Winnipeg Labour Council said a new city process violates labour laws by asking unions to bid on work.

On Monday, council's alternate-service delivery committee voted in favour of a plan to lease four city-run golf courses and contract out Winnipeg's custodial services. City reports said Winnipeg could cut losses on the four golf course operations by $711,000 through leases and save about $200,000 by contracting out custodial services in office buildings and pools this year.

The two recommendations came about through a modified managed competition. The process examines whether unions can provide services for less money than cost estimates submitted by the private sector.

The City of Winnipeg contacted union officials to see if they would like to participate in discussions about the cost of running golf courses and custodial services, but the Canadian Union of Public Employees did not respond, according to city administrative reports.

Winnipeg Labour Council president Dave Sauer said the process asks unions to bid on work, which is something they cannot do since it would violate the Canada Labour Act. Sauer said unions represent workers, and this process asks them to act as an employer by bidding on work.

He said labour laws in some U.S. states allow for this type of negotiation, but he is not aware of any other Canadian city that has attempted it.

City spokeswoman Michelle Bailey said the process does not ask the unions to bid on work, but gives them an opportunity to come forward with a proposal on how they could stop golf courses from losing this amount of money. Bailey said if the unions can't come up with anything that could solve the problem, the city will put out a competitive bid.

Following Monday's vote, city officials will have 45 days to meet with union officials to discuss their plans, which still need to be approved by city council.

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 26, 2013 A6

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