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Pallister’s public sector cuts continue as Manitoba Hydro layoffs put frontline service at risk

June 22, 2020 - 12:00 AM

June 22, 2020

WINNIPEG – Unifor is raising the alarm over Premier Pallister’s most recent attempt to chip away at Manitoba Hydro.

Twelve of only 221 frontline workers for Manitoba Hydro’s natural gas division have been placed on layoff effective Monday, June 22, 2020 despite no financial need or decrease in work.

“Pallister looks for any way to squeeze public services, from health care to education. Today’s layoffs may look small in number, but could have a dramatic impact on Manitoban’s safety,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Workers have seen this before, governments that cut away at public services in order to contract out and privatize. That’s not going to happen here, Unifor members are fighting these cuts.”

Unifor members at Manitoba Hydro are the first to respond to explosions, gas leaks, carbon monoxide alarms, fires and other natural gas emergencies, as well as perform appliance inspection. These recent layoffs added to job vacancies not filled since 2018 has eroded the gas division’s ability to respond to emergencies by 25 per cent.

Since announcing layoffs for highly-trained, unionized staff, Manitoba Hydro has hired approximately 10 contractors and posted a contract for a new supervisor.

“Creeping cuts to public services weaken those services, and that’s exactly what Pallister’s goal is here. His record is clear, cut services that the public relies on, and attempt to bully Manitoba’s workers by contracting out,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor’s Western Regional Director. “Now is the time to invest, not make risky cuts that will harm the province.”

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.

To arrange for interviews, in-person or via Skype/Facetime, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Sarah McCue at sarah.mccue@unifor.org or 416-458-3307.