The union representing thousands of public sector employees in Manitoba says its come to an agreement with the province to prevent layoffs, weeks after premier Brian Pallister said non-essential workforce reductions — potentially including layoffs — were needed to shore up funds for the fight against COVID-19.
The Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union (MGEU) says the province agreed to provide a no-layoff clause for this fiscal year, in exchange for all civil service employees taking five unpaid days off.
Exemptions include those working in institutional settings such as corrections or Selkirk Mental Health Centre, areas critical to pandemic response such as nursing stations, and seasonal employees.
The MGEU says employees and their supervisors will have to come to a mutual agreement on which five days they’ll go without pay this fiscal year, and credit will be given for any Voluntary Reduced Workweek (VRW) days already approved.
In a letter to members, the union says the newly announced unpaid days will be treated the same as other VRW days in that deductions will be spread over the pay periods available in this fiscal year. Service dates, benefits, and pensions will not be affected.
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“MGEU continues to believe that these work reductions are unnecessary, unfair, and harmful to Manitoba’s economy,” the MGEU letter reads.
“However, given the Premier’s very real threat of layoffs, MGEU believes that securing no-layoff protection and accepting the five unpaid days is a better path for Civil Service members.”
Pallister had originally told Crown corporations and organizations receiving public funds to prepare to reduce costs by as much as 30 per cent, saying the province could face a deficit as high as $5 billion, largely due to the coronavirus.
That reduction eventually dropped to an average of just 2.2 per cent. It was also never clear which workers or services would be deemed non-essential and be at risk of layoffs.
The MGEU letter goes on to say it had tried to reduce the number of unpaid days to three, however the government wouldn’t bite.