Manitoba civil servants mull over details of tentative contract from province

Thousands of Manitoba civil servants are inching ever closer to signing a deal with the province after being without a contract for almost two years.

Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union close in on deal after 2 years without contract

Security guards at Winnipeg's Health Sciences Centre picketed earlier in December to call attention to what they call dangerous working conditions, poor wages and high turnover. The province and the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union have now reached a tentative agreement that covers the workers. (Meagan Fiddler/CBC)

Thousands of Manitoba civil servants are inching ever closer to signing a deal with the province after being without a contract for almost two years.

About 14,000 Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU) members are in the middle of mulling over a collective agreement with the Manitoba government.

The proposed five-year agreement would see wages increase by one per cent in each of the first two years, and two per cent in the following three years. It also includes a no-layoff clause.

No layoffs

"It's in the layoff clause that there would be no intent of government, through the life of this collective agreement, to close any of the departments or to layoff any of the staff," union president Michelle Gawronsky said, adding she thinks similar clauses ought to be offered to employees in other sectors.

"It's very responsible — I don't know how you cannot have a no-layoff clause and still maintain services."

While the agreement makes it so union members are on firm legal ground as far as layoffs are concerned, Gawronsky said the province could still find ways to undermine the spirit of the clause if it wanted to.

They'll weigh the odds and they'll decide on how they want to vote on it — we're not making a recommendation either way.- Michelle  Gawronsky

"They wouldn't be able to do a layoff. What they've done in the past is not fill empty positions, but we are also looking at that as well," she said.

On its own, the clause wasn't a huge bargaining chip in negotiations with the province, Gawronsky said, adding the forthcoming provincial election appeared to have "no bearing" on negotiations.

The previous contract covered employees hired on or before Apr. 1, 2010. The new contract would extend that coverage to anyone hired on or before Apr. 1, 2015.

MGEU members will vote over the next few weeks on whether to accept the contract. In the meantime, Gawronsky said union management won't be trying to sway employees in any way.
MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky said she's pleased there's a tentative agreement on the table. Roughly 14,000 government employees have been without a contract for the past two years. (CBC)

"We've got smart members out there," she said. "They'll weigh the odds and they'll decide on how they want to vote on it — we're not making a recommendation either way."

The final tally takes place Jan. 28.