Tuesday, May 04, 2010


Here in Manitoba the provincial NDP government has recently announced a wage freeze for the public sector. The ostensible rationale of this policy is that in a "recovery period" from the recent recession/depression government spending will have to be curtailed both in order to recover from a deficit position and to act as a brake on inflationary pressures. All of this, of course, depends upon some pretty 'ify' projections concerning the speed of recovery, inflationary pressures and how much provincial policy can influence the latter-if at all. It also depends on what is probably a "worst case" scenario in terms of government revenue (which depends not just on the rate of recovery but also on its qualitative aspects). What is not "ify" is that the government has determined to set their wage freeze in stone rather than await the unknown future.

During times when the "health" of our managerial economy demands that ordinary workers sacrifice it is very often the social democrats such as our provincial NDP (or even more obviously the "socialist" government of Greece) who lead the lambs to the slaughter. Unfortunately public memory is short, and ordinary workers often give their support to such parties because the alternatives seem worse.

No doubt they are ! This is not, however, an argument against a policy of distancing the unions and other working class organizations from such social democratic parties---if for no other reason than to hold a threat over the head of the parties. It is even less of a reason for people not to look into non-statist, cooperative ways of achieving social goals, ways that depend less on government and more on popular initiative. Even should there never be a society free of bosses, both public and private, this Independence would serve ordinary people well. This latest attack on public service workers in Manitoba is best situated in the long historical tradition of thousands of such attacks on ordinary people by social democrats in power.

Here's the story from the CBC about how the Manitoba Government Employees Union (MGEU) is planning a public relations campaign against the wage freeze.

Wage freeze sparks MGEU ad campaign

CBC News
The MGEU's ads feature profiles from people like Ryan Espy, a correctional officer who works with youth at a provincial jail. (MGEU) The union representing more than 32,000 public-sector employees in Manitoba has embarked on a campaign to win public support in the wake of an announced wage freeze by the government.

On Monday, the Manitoba Government Employees Union (MGEU) launched TV advertisements under the title of Your Province, Your Services.

The ads introduce the public to civil servants who do everything from test water quality to guarding offenders in provincial jails. Currently, the union has produced five such profiles for the ads.

MGEU spokeswoman Lois Wales suggested it's important the general public realize that wage freezes will have an impact on the provincial economy and the services people receive.

"If you're cutting back on the public service's spending power, then you're stalling out the whole recovery of the recession," Wales said.

"Because the private sector is just starting to come back, people need to have money to spend to keep that economy going, and that's what our members expect," she said.

Freeze part of long-term plan
The government announced in its recently tabled 2010 budget that it would incur heavy deficits for five years before returning to surplus.

A two-year wage freeze for government employees was announced as a cost-cutting measure.

Finance Minister Rosann Wowchuk has defended the wage freeze, saying the government could have laid off workers and cut programs in order to balance the budget, but instead decided to go ahead with deficits to preserve front-line programs such as health care.

The wage freezes would be rolled out as collective agreements expire, Wowchuk previously said.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2010/05/03/man-wage-freeze-mgeu-ads.html#ixzz0mzFQhrqK
Now here's the story from the horse's mouth so to speak. Here's the MGEU on their campaign.
Campaign Highlights Importance of Public Sector Workers
To highlight the importance of Manitoba’s public sector employees, the MGEU is launching a public campaign to remind Manitobans just how critical public services are, especially during tough economic times.

“Too often, when economic times are tough, talk turns to cuts to public services. But at what cost?” asks MGEU President Peter Olfert. “Right now many departments are struggling with unacceptably high vacancy rates. We need to start talking about what’s at stake here.”

Two ads will be running on local television stations throughout the month of May, aiming to remind Manitobans that a strong public service is key to keeping our province going and growing.

“These are the men and women who get us through the tough times, whether its flood protection, or making sure kids are safe when their families are in crisis,” said Olfert. “And now is not the time to scrimp on our safety standards, whether it’s making sure our water is free of e-coli, or striving to keep young offenders from returning to gang life.”

Olfert pointed out that while most Manitobans know public sector workers are there to protect our quality of life, they may not consider their role in keeping our economy as stable as possible.

“Take the current workforce shortages in certified trades,” Olfert said. “We’ve currently got Aboriginal Apprenticeship Coordinators throughout the province working to get young Aboriginal Manitobans into apprenticed trades like carpentry and plumbing. If the government needs to make up for cash shortfalls, are public programs like these really what we want to take the hit? When the private sector is struggling, we need the public sector to help make sure we don’t stall altogether.”

The Provincial government is currently at the bargaining table with over 14,000 public service employees. So far, the Province has essentially said accept an across-the-board wage freeze or there will be cuts such as reduced work weeks or lay-offs.

As you may have already noticed on our website, the MGEU is profiling the many different jobs of provincial public sector workers – highlighting what they do and how it affects Manitobans. Over the next few months, the union will continue to feature different members every week who are the faces behind Manitoba's civil service.

“Let’s remember: a public sector wage freeze would mean significantly less buying power for thousands and thousands of middle class families across our province,” Olfert said. “And cuts would mean the loss of critical services that most Manitobans take for granted.”

Watch Ad #1
Your Province Your Services Ad schedule

Read Profiles of Civil Service Members

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