MGEU workers nix austerity deal
Had wage freeze in addition to no-layoff clause
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/01/2011 (4395 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Thousands of Manitoba government workers have rejected an austerity contract that would have given them a wage freeze but protected them from layoffs.
That means the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union (MGEU) and the Selinger government will have to go back to the bargaining table, possibly as early as this week.
“It’s really in the government’s court now,” said MGEU president Lois Wales.
About 13,500 workers — everyone from clerical staff to park wardens to psychiatric nurses — voted by mail-in ballot on the deal that would have frozen their wages for the first two years of a four-year agreement. In exchange, the Selinger government guaranteed no layoffs and agreed to some improvements to benefits.
The ballots were counted Friday, and workers rejected the contract. Wales wouldn’t say whether it was a narrow defeat or an overwhelming one.
Wales said the government was adamant about a wage freeze in first two years and members were most upset with that.
“The bargaining committee would not have taken the deal to members if they didn’t think it was as far as we could go,” said Wales. “Sometimes these things have a life of their own.”
The contract — a behemoth covering almost 900 different job classifications — expired at the end of March.
The Selinger government’s budget projections, already in deficit, are built on a wage freeze for civil servants that would save about $100 million. Last spring, when the 2010 budget was released, Finance Minister Rosann Wowchuk made it clear the government wanted a two-year wage freeze.
The provincial nurses union accepted a two-year wage freeze and other government unions across the country have also agreed to wage freezes.
The MGEU said it was the only government union in the country to have secured a no-layoff guarantee for the entire four-year term of the contract.
The deal would have seen a wage increase of 2.75 per cent in each of the last two years. The deal also provides for another two per cent increase for 20-year employees that goes into effect in the third year. The MGEU said that would give 40 per cent of the members a 4.75 per cent increase that year.
A spokesman for the Selinger government called the news “disappointing.”
“The offer was fair, reflecting current fiscal realities, while demonstrating a strong commitment to hard-working and valued public workers,” he said.