'Fair deal' bus takes frustrated MGEU reps to Manitoba minister's office

The minister responsible for the civil service is getting a visit from a busload of angry people this morning.

Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union visiting MLAs' offices this week

MGEU members protest outside the office of cabinet minister Kerri Irvin-Ross on Tuesday, to draw attention to government employees who have been without a contract for the last 18 months 1:00
Manitoba politicians are getting a visit from a busload of angry civil servants who have been without a contract for over a year.
Members of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union protest outside the constituency office of cabinet minister Kerri Irvin-Ross on Tuesday morning. (Chris Glover/CBC)

Representatives of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union drove a decorated "Fair Deal Bus" on Tuesday to the constituency office of Kerri Irvin-Ross, the minister responsible for the provincial civil service.

The point of the exercise is to draw attention to 14,000 government employees who have been without a contract for the last 18 months. 

The union is also visiting the offices of Labour Minister Erna Braun and stopping at the Woodsworth Building downtown before heading to Portage la Prairie, Man., on Tuesday afternoon.

The bus rolled up to Irvin-Ross's office at 9:15 a.m. and MGEU workers protested outside the building with signs saying, "We need a fair deal" and "We can't keep doing more with less!"

"We're not fat cats. We're taxpayers, too. Working for the government used to be a good job; now it's only a decent job," said Deb Jamerson, 58, who has been a workplace health and safety officer with the province for five years.
Deb Jamerson, 58, has been a workplace safety and health officer with the province for five years. She took part in the MGEU's Fair Deal Tour on Tuesday. (Chris Glover/CBC)

"It's difficult, absolutely, to come to this point that we can't get a fair deal. We're workers, we put in place the programs that the employer legislates for Manitobans, and that's an important job," she added.

"You can't have programs without the people in place to do the job."

The MGEU's Fair Deal Tour began on Monday and continues through Friday with stops across the province.

Arbitration hearing set for May

"They have to be responsive to the concerns of their membership and that's a tactic that they're using," Finance Minister Greg Dewar said Monday.

"We're going to find an answer to that. They've asked for arbitration, we've agreed to that."

MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky said after 14,000 government workers have gone without contracts for 18 months, the time for action is now. (CBC)
The arbitration hearing isn't expected to take place until May 2016, just a few weeks after the provincial election.

The MGEU wants a two per cent annual increase in salaries for four years for the workers. 

"Members are frustrated. They definitely feel devalued by their government … their employer," said Michelle Gawronsky, the union's president.

Dewar has not publicly disclosed details of the deal the province is offering workers.

"I'm not going to bargain here on the airwaves; we bargain at the bargaining table," Dewar said. "We have to be responsible to the taxpayer. We feel it's necessary to strike the right balance with them and we feel we are."

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