Pallister layoffs violated collective agreements: Arbitrator

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Brian Pallister

WINNIPEG—An independent arbitrator has sided with Unifor in a key battle against the Manitoba government over layoffs proposed in 2020.

“The PC government wants Crown corporations and public services to fail. It’s the pretext for privatization,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor Western Regional Director. “Unifor fought to keep Manitoba Hydro staffed properly.”

On Tuesday, March 22, 2022, an arbitrator ruled the lay-offs requested by then-Premier Pallister were a clear violation of the “lack of work” clause in Unifor’s collective agreement with Manitoba Hydro.

Unifor says the PC government first attempted to impose lay-offs in 2019 but was unsuccessful after Manitoba Hydro cited safety concerns with the staff reduction. The union says the government tried again in 2020, this time using the pandemic as an excuse. Unifor took the employer to arbitration to protect Manitoba Hydro jobs.

“The PC government asked Manitoba Hydro workers to pay for its inability to govern with their jobs. We fought for good jobs and we fought for stable and reliable public hydro services,” said Victor Diduch, Unifor Local 681 President.

Unifor’s “lack of work” article ensure lay-offs may only occur if there is not enough bargaining unit work to fill positions. The arbitrator ruled that the government demanded labour “savings” well in excess of any reasonable staff reduction.

Read the decision.

Unifor Local 681 represents natural gas workers and meter readers at Manitoba Hydro.

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.

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Ian Boyko

National Communications Representative - Western Region