“Over the past 2 days, our partnership made some very compelling arguments that the act is already infringing the Charter rights of public sector workers. We have done everything possible to put our best foot forward. Now it’s up to the judge to decide.” — Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU President
Winnipeg (31 May 2018) — On May 29 and 30, the injunction request filed by the Partnership to Defend Public Services (PDPS) against the Pallister government’s wage freeze legislation (Bill 28, The Public Services Sustainability Act) was heard in court. The Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union (MGEU/NUPGE) is the largest member of the PDPS.
Free and fair bargaining needed, not imposed agreements
Garth Smorang and Shannon Carson, lawyers for the PDPS from Myers Weinberg LLP, made the case that the legislation is causing irreparable harm to the bargaining process in Manitoba’s public sector, and that an injunction should be granted against the act. The injunction would allow free and fair collective bargaining to occur until the full Charter challenge of the legislation is heard and decided (which could take years).
Bill 28 was introduced in the Manitoba legislature on March 20, 2017 and was passed into law on June 2, 2017. Although Premier Pallister and his cabinet have not yet proclaimed the law into force, the wage caps it would impose are already interfering with the bargaining process across the public sector.
The act establishes a framework to cap wage increases for all public sector employees in the province. It includes:
- a 2-year wage freeze
- a maximum increase of 0.75 per cent to the rate of pay in year 3 of a collective agreement
- a maximum increase of 1 per cent to the rate of pay in year 4 of a collective agreement
Coalition shows act already infringes on constitutionally protected rights of workers
In July 2017, the MGEU/NUPGE stood in solidarity with other members of the PDPS to launch a Charter challenge against the bill on behalf of over 110,000 workers. Because this is usually a lengthy process, the PDPS also filed an injunction in court to restrict the application of Bill 28 until the Charter challenge can be settled.
“Over the past 2 days, our partnership made some very compelling arguments that the act is already infringing the Charter rights of public sector workers,” says Michele Gawronsky, MGEU President. “We have done everything possible to put our best foot forward. Now it’s up to the judge to decide.”
The injunction decision will likely be delivered sometime this summer. Whether or not an injunction is granted, the Charter challenge will proceed. Court dates for hearing the PDPS’s full challenge have not yet been set.