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Protesters target MGEU for suspension of two senior staffers

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Manitoba’s largest labour union was the target of a protest Wednesday in front of the Union Centre on Broadway.

About a dozen activists and retired Manitoba Government and General Employees Union staff members staged a noon-hour picket outside the building to protest the recent suspensions of two senior MGEU staffers without pay.

They said the union has failed to give the two — Bruce Buckley and Bob Dewar — due process.

The two high-profile men have been suspended since September. Protesters said neither has received an explanation in writing for the action. Their removal surprised both Manitoba labour leaders and high-ranking members of the NDP when it came to light last month.

Dewar was a one-time chief of staff to former NDP premier Gary Doer. Buckley is a government appointee to the Manitoba Taxicab Board, which he chairs.

Both have refused interview requests.

However, late Wednesday, the Free Press obtained a copy of a letter Buckley emailed to MGEU board members Nov. 4 as well as a grievance dated Oct. 7.

In the documents, Buckley said he had an unblemished record of employment in his 23 years with the MGEU and was suspended without cause.

"In all the years that I have been privileged to work for our union I have never seen any employer treat its employees the way I have been treated since the middle of September," he wrote to the board.

In his grievance, Buckley stated the officers of the union, "in particular, President Michelle Gawronsky," acted beyond the scope of their authority in taking the action they did.

Among the issues apparently in dispute between the union and the two suspended senior staffers is whether the staffers operated under a collective agreement as part of a tiny bargaining unit called the Senior Staff Alliance, or whether they were simply under contract with the union.

Gawronsky maintained in a brief interview Wednesday that "due process is being followed" in dealing with the men.

"The matters are with legal counsel and we continue to work through the process," she said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

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