'We have some huge concerns': unions blast PC throne speech

Labour unions in Manitoba are expressing concerns about the vision of the PC government and possible cuts to frontline services.

Throne speech delivered Monday promises cost-cutting measures, regulation of wage increases

Protesters gather outside the Manitoba Legislative Building Monday ahead of the throne speech. (CBC)

Labour unions in Manitoba are expressing concerns about the vision of the PC government and possible interference in bargaining processes.

In the throne speech Monday, Premier Brian Pallister said his government aims to control spending by regulating public sector wage increases. In essence, the legislation would prevent government from agreeing to increases it cannot pay for without deficit spending.

"We have some huge concerns," said Kevin Rebeck, president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour.

"This government has already interfered once with a collective bargaining process, we hope that that doesn't continue, and that people are able to get a fair deal for fair wages."

In October, unions and the Progressive Conservatives sparred over Bill 7, a measure that would let workers vote on forming unions and end "forced unionization."

Labour organizations argued the amendment opens the door for employers to intimidate and threaten workers out of forming a union.

Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union president Michelle Gawronsky reiterated Rebeck's concerns regarding Monday's speech.

Gawronsky, who heads up the province's largest union, accused the premier of stripping Manitobans of their bargaining rights.

"Without the ability to negotiate a fair wage, it gets tougher to maintain a qualified workforce and services inevitably suffer," she said in a release.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Manitoba echoed the other unions' concerns and argued Pallister was pursuing an ideology of austerity.

"Measures like cost-cutting and service reduction could stall the economy and worsen poverty, income insecurity and precarious work," said CUPE Manitoba president Kelly Moist.

"We will not be fooled by a manufactured financial crisis into creating a real one. We will continue to demand that our government do its job — looking after Manitobans' needs, the most vulnerable and the public good," said Moist.