Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Blaine Pedersen blames workers' lack of loyalty to the employer for job vacancy rates in Manitoba – which is 12 per cent in his government department alone.

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Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Blaine Pedersen blames workers' lack of loyalty to the employer for job vacancy rates in Manitoba – which is 12 per cent in his government department alone.

During his recent ministerial estimates – a committee hearing into all and any aspects of a departmental budget – Pedersen responded to questions from New Democrat MLA Tom Lindsey, saying: "I'll try to explain this: there is no loyalty in the workforce anymore."

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Manitoba Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Blaine Pedersen.</p>

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Manitoba Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Blaine Pedersen.

Lindsey was asking about the trade department having reduced staff by 14 per cent -- 58 full-time equivalents -- while also carrying a 12 per cent vacancy rate. Normally, the department's vacancy rate runs about eight per cent, Pedersen said.

The April 5 exchange was detailed in the Hansard Manitoba legislative record.

The minister told the hearing both the public and private sectors spend a lot of time trying to fill jobs they need filled to perform properly.

"It used to be there was a person would get a career and they would stay there for 30 years. You should know this, but I'll explain it anyway," Pedersen said. "Nowadays, my children's generation, who are in their 30s, they will have – the average career is five different careers. So people move, whether it's from the civil service, whether it's from private business, they move around.

"So government is no different than private industry on this. There is a vacancy rate... go talk to any business out there that's looking to recruit workers. They have a vacancy rate," the Tory minster said. "My staff is telling me that just yesterday they got notice of a person putting in notice to resign, totally unexpected. So that's what vacancy rates are all about.

"We will endeavour to reduce our overall vacancy rate from the current eight per cent and we will do our level best. We need those people in a department to keep the department working to achieve the goals that we have set for the department."

Lindsey responded: "Trust me, I would dearly love if people could have a career that they didn't have to continually move around. Unfortunately, that's not the world that any of us live in at the moment."

On Monday, Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union president Michelle Gawronsky questioned how Pedersen could talk about loyalty from workers whose jobs are getting cut and wages frozen by the provincial government.

"There was a time when a civil service job meant fair and competitive compensation and the potential to build a career. That is changing very quickly," Gawronsky said.

"Recruiting and retaining skilled staff is less of a problem for employers that value their staff, offer fair compensation, and support employees to do the job right" — Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union president Michelle Gawronsky

"Recruiting and retaining skilled staff is less of a problem for employers that value their staff, offer fair compensation, and support employees to do the job right," the labour leader said. "This government has chosen a different path: cutting jobs that leave too few workers to deliver services, freezing wages that make hiring and keeping workers a significant challenge, and criticizing the work of public employees to justify its agenda of cuts and privatization."

Manitoba Chambers of Commerce president Chuck Davidson split his response Monday.

"I don’t disagree with the minister's comment, but I don’t think it is about loyalty. I think it has more to do with the number of opportunities that exist for people," Davidson said.

"In addition, there are very few industries that can provide an employee with job security for 30 years. This is one of the reasons that you see employers focus on greater work/life balance for employees and becoming an employer of choice in an effort to keep employees longer," he said. "This is probably an area where the private sector is much more proactive than the public sector."

Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce president Loren Remillard said he wouldn't comment on political discussions, but noted: "Without a doubt, talent attraction and retention is a key challenge for industry" his organization's members raise frequently.

"What we're seeing is a change from generation to generation," Remillard said. "It's experiential-focused – people want to have a CV (resumé) that indicates a wide range of skills and experience that applies to any opportunity."

Remillard declined to talk about workers' loyalty, but said anyone with high skills in an in-demand sector doesn't have difficulty in finding a new job in Manitoba.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca