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A new, provincially-mandated review of job classifications and staff-management ratios at Crown corporations is causing concern among rank-and-file workers who will feel the impact of any cuts, their unions say.
On Thursday, Finance Minister Scott Fielding said the Manitoba government would hire a private consultant to carry out the work. He did not provide a cost estimate.
"Whenever this government announces a new review, they create a great uneasiness for front-line workers, so we're certainly concerned about jobs and staff morale," said David Jacks, spokesman for Canadian Union of Public Employees Manitoba.
Fielding said the government did not have specific cost-savings targets in mind, but it would use the consultant's findings to make informed decisions in the future. Among the supervisory roles being examined are some that may be currently filled by union workers, the government said.
Any changes to staff-management ratios would affect the responsibilities and workloads of virtually all workers, union officials said Friday.
"I'd certainly like to know where it's coming from," Michelle Gawronsky, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union, said of the new review.
"Decisions about our public services need to be driven by what Manitobans need, not by arbitrary cutback targets."
While Fielding said he had no specific money-saving target in mind, a confusing government news release Thursday fanned concerns when it spoke of "reducing overall management levels by 15 per cent."
The government clarified Crown corporations which had previously been required to reduce senior management by 15 per cent were not going to be asked to do so again. The release also referred to new required management cuts for the province's school divisions.
The MGEU represents 1,597 Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries workers (at Liquor Mart locations, casinos and in liquor distribution) and 1,624 at Manitoba Public Insurance.
"Decisions about our public services need to be driven by what Manitobans need, not by arbitrary cutback targets." — MGEU president, Michelle Gawronsky
The union estimates 100 or more of its members at the two Crown corporations are serving in some form of supervisory capacity, although it is unclear how the government's yet-to-be-named consultant will define that role.
Gawronsky and Jacks expressed concern about the future imposition of arbitrary staff-supervisor ratios that do not properly take into account the wide variation in job types and working conditions.
"You can't just say, 'Well, we're going to have 10 people for every supervisor.' How do we know that's going to work? Maybe you need more, maybe you need less," Gawronsky said.
Added Jacks, whose union represents 885 workers at Manitoba Hydro and 258 at MLL: "As with any review contracted by this government, the devil is going to be in the details."
The Free Press was unable to obtain comment Friday from International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2034, which represents more than 2,500 workers who generate, transmit and distribute electricity for Hydro.
So far, none of the three large Crown corporations have publicly objected to the new consultant review, which will also examine executive pay levels.
In a statement, MLL said it was committed to aligning its operations "in support of the government's goals to manage operating expenses and staffing levels."
MPI said its executive remains committed "to reducing operational expenses while providing customers with exceptional coverage and service."
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.
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