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Province scraps plan to adjourn wage freeze court challenge

The province has decided to scrap a plan to adjourn a court battle over a proposed public sector wage-freeze bill.
The province has decided to scrap a plan to adjourn a court battle over a proposed public sector wage-freeze bill. Shane Gibson/Global News

The Manitoba government has backed off a plan to delay a court battle over its public-sector wage freeze.

Unions representing 110,000 workers are asking the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench to strike down the legislated wage freeze as a violation of their right to collective bargaining.

The hearing is set for mid-November, but the government said earlier this month it would seek an adjournment of the case while it considers amendments to its bill.

Now, the Progressive Conservative government has notified the unions that it will no longer seek to delay the case.

The bill, passed in 2017 but never proclaimed into law, mandates a two-year wage freeze for public-sector workers as each new collective agreement is negotiated.

That would be followed by a 0.75 per cent pay increase in the third year and one per cent in the fourth.

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The bill has never been proclaimed into law, but public-sector unions said government negotiators were treating it as if it had been and were refusing to budge on wages.

READ MORE: Labour groups prepare to fight proposed Manitoba wage-freeze law

The president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour said Thursday workers are frustrated by the government’s actions and the time it has taken to get to court.

“(Some) people have been without contracts for over two years now. They want to bargain”, Kevin Rebeck said.

The press secretary for Finance Minister Scott Fielding said the court hearing will proceed on Nov. 18.

“While the province raised concerns about the utility of a trial over legislation that is not in force and is in the process of being amended, after further discussions it was agreed the court dates could still be used productively,” David Von Meyenfeldt wrote in an email.

“Therefore the province did not apply for an adjournment and the trial will be proceeding as scheduled.”

Province to introduce bills that may freeze public-sector wages
Province to introduce bills that may freeze public-sector wages