Manitoba NDP government asks public-sector workers for two year wage freeze
As usual it is the worker's that have to pay for the recession. It was a Conservative govt. that last tried to carry out a program such as this. There may be considerable resistance from the unions. Also, if Manitoba health care workers salaries as a result of the freeze go much below those of other provinces there will be an out migration of workers even as Manitoba is so short of nurses , for example, that is must recruit from the Philippines. It seems that the NDP is also imitating Obama in taxing tanning salons! Polls show that the NDP is losing support. If they lose their working class base or even if they do not turn out to vote NDP they may be gone next election.
Manitoba's NDP government asks public-sector workers for two-year wage freeze
Steve Lambert, THE CANADIAN PRESS
WINNIPEG - Manitoba's NDP government issued a surprise warning to its workers Tuesday - accept a two-year wage freeze in any new collective agreements or face job cuts.
"We are going to try to negotiate a pause in further wage increase for the next two years," Finance Minister Rosann Wowchuk said. "If we can get a pause, we will not have any layoffs."
The warning comes as the province prepares to talk salaries with two of its largest unions: the 11,000-member Manitoba Nurses Union and the 13,000-strong Manitoba Government and General Employees Union. Wowchuk's words threaten to derail a decade-long smooth relationship between unions and the NDP government.
"It's a bit disappointing to have this discussion in the media when we've had no discussion at the bargaining table with regard to wages," said nurses union president Sandi Mowat.
Freezing salaries "just prolongs, in our view, a recession and ultimately reduces government revenue because people aren't spending," said Peter Olfert, head of the MGEU.
Wowchuk argues the freeze is needed to keep the province's finances in order. The province is forecasting a $592-million deficit for the fiscal year that ends next month and is expecting limited economic growth in 2010-11.
The salary freeze will be demanded not only from government workers as contracts expire, but also from hospital staff and others whose salaries rely on provincial funding, Wowchuk said.
"Times are tough," she said. "We have to have realistic expectations."
The government has already frozen the top-up pay given to cabinet ministers, which was scheduled to jump soon. It is considering a similar freeze on the base pay of all legislature members, which is scheduled to rise in April to $85,564 from $83,722.
Manitoba has not seen large-scale labour strife since the mid-1990s, when the Progressive Conservative government of Gary Filmon instituted a wage freeze and unpaid days off in an attempt to balance the budget.
After the NDP took office in 1999, it hired more health-care workers and boosted public-sector salaries, aided by a growing economy and strong transfer payments from the federal government. Former NDP premier Gary Doer, who had previously headed the MGEU, was frequently given standing ovations at labour conventions.
With the economy in recession, that relationship under new Premier Greg Selinger is showing signs of cooling.
"We're really worried that the government is too worried about the deficit," Olfert said. "They can't slay the deficit by just cutting back on the public sector, but they can deal with the deficit by growing the economy."