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Pallister flip-flops on protecting front-line workers

June 5, 2020 - 3:00 AM

WINNIPEG—Despite pledging to protect front-line workers, Premier Brian Pallister’s Manitoba Hydro layoffs threaten to impact services for Manitobans.

“Brian Pallister has demonstrated time and again that he can’t be trusted to strengthen Manitoba Hydro,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Manitobans deserve to know why the premier is jeopardizing hydro service.”

Unifor says the cuts will come during a time when Manitoba Hydro is working at full capacity to keep up with the unique demands of COVID-19.

Unions entered good-faith discussions with Hydro about unpaid days off in lieu of layoffs, but when the company rejected a guarantee to limit layoffs, Unifor walked away. Unifor says the company’s position suggests that the layoffs are part of a longer-term strategy to further emaciate the popular publicly owned utility.

“The storm response in fall 2019 is proof that Manitoba Hydro is already understaffed,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor’s Western Regional Director. “Contracting out at the drop of a hat is a symptom of a staffing capacity problem. The new lay-offs will only make matters worse.”

Despite the premier’s repeated assurances that front-line workers would be protected, the layoffs announced today contradict those promises, says Unifor.

“Manitoba’s front-line emergency workers worked around the clock to ensure communities such as Portage La Prairie recovered after unprecedented damage last fall,” said Victor Diduch, acting President of Unifor Local 681. “In return, Brian Pallister will thank them with lay-offs.”

The Hydro layoffs follow in the wake of cuts at the University of Manitoba. Last week Pallister’s cuts to university funding resulted in 80 Unifor members in operations and maintenance receiving temporary layoff notices.

“These workers maintained the buildings of the university through the height of COVID and now they’re laying us off,” said Brian Kelly, president of Unifor Local 3007. “Everywhere else in the country they are looking at bringing people back and in Manitoba they decide to cut.”

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

To arrange for interviews, in-person or via Skype/Facetime, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Ian Boyko at ian.boyko@unifor.org or 778-903-6549 (cell).