Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Suspended employees fit to serve on boards?

Tories question union staffers' ability to fulfil roles

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The Progressive Conservative Opposition says the NDP government should examine whether two of its patronage appointees are fit to fulfil their roles after being suspended by their employer.

On Wednesday in the legislature, PC Leader Brian Pallister raised the suspensions by the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union (MGEU) of two of its senior employees.

Bruce Buckley and Bob Dewar, both longtime union staffers, were suspended without pay in September. The MGEU has not publicly explained the reasons for its actions, although it has said no criminal charges or misappropriation of funds were involved.

Buckley is the NDP-appointed chairman of the Manitoba Taxicab Board, which regulates the taxi industry. Dewar, a one-time chief of staff to former premier Gary Doer, is an appointee to the board of directors of the Workers Compensation Board.

"If Mr. Dewar is not good enough for the Manitoba Government Employees Union, why is he good enough for this premier on the Workers Compensation Board?" Pallister asked Premier Greg Selinger during question period.

As for Buckley, the Tory leader said: "If he has been suspended for any wrongdoing, he should not remain on the taxicab board."

Selinger told Pallister the suspensions were a matter between the employees and their employer. "It has nothing to do with us."

The premier deflected further questions and later refused a request for an interview on the subject. In the house, he chastised the Tories for using the services of a Tory-appointed senator as campaign co-chairman in the last provincial election.

Pallister said the suspensions cast a shadow over the government appointments, and it "would be wise to clear the air."

"If the MGEU has suspended these gentlemen for no good reason, that in itself should be a cause for concern. But if they are suspended and there are reasons for the suspension, one should be made aware of them," the Tory leader said outside the house.

Dewar and Buckley have refused comment. The union said recently its lawyers are in talks with lawyers for the two men.

Last Wednesday, about a dozen activists and retired MGEU staffers staged a noon-hour protest outside the Union Centre, angry at what they called a lack of due process by the union in suspending Buckley and Dewar. The union denied the charge.

The Free Press obtained copies of a grievance filed by Buckley against the union and a letter he sent to members of its board. In the documents, Buckley said he has an unblemished record of employment in 23 years with Manitoba's largest labour union 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.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 28, 2013 B4

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