WINNIPEG – A meeting between the government and labour union leaders was a contentious one Friday as the PCs try to figure out ways to trim the deficit.
The tone of the meeting was set by a letter sent by senior bureaucrat Gerry Irving to the Manitoba Federation of Labour, outlining a number of legislative options that would help control spending. The list included ideas such as wage freezes and reduced work weeks.
Federation of Labour president Kevin Rebeck spent the morning before the meeting voicing his displeasure over the letter, complaining that there has been no real consultation so far. After the one-hour meeting finished, he carried on with that same message.
“We got together and met, raised our displeasure with them not providing answers to questions we had sent in advance. We reiterated some of those questions, we shared our unease with the letter and what it meant and this change of tone. There was no new information, no explanation of the list shared in that letter. We are committed to returning to balance within eight years and want to work with government to achieve that while protecting public services.”
In response to Rebeck, the Office of the Premier released this statement Friday afternoon:
“While it is unfortunate that union leadership has today sought to colour a direct consultative process with inaccurate public grandstanding, our government’s commitment to meaningful and collaborative communication with organized labour continues. It is no secret that our government inherited serious financial challenges and unsustainable expenditure growth. As we address these issues and consider options, including legislation, we welcome constructive input and feedback through a respectful process that is being co-ordinated directly through public service officials and union leaders.
The integrity of this ongoing process requires direct and frank dialogue so neither the Premier nor the Minister of Finance will be drawn into premature speculation about potential outcomes. Our government respectfully urges our partners in labour to follow the same course by focusing on the opportunity for actual discussion and cooperation rather than seeking charged and mischaracterized public conflict.”
Rebeck says they are trying to set up another meeting with government officials but have not set a date yet.