Government Softening on its Commitment to Protect Front-Line Workers
Sep 06, 2016
In a recent interview with the Winnipeg Free Press, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister began softening on a commitment to Manitobans that the provincial government would protect front-line services and jobs (Pallister talks about the first 100 days , softens campaign vow to protect all front-line jobs, August 8).
Before the recent provincial election, that commitment to
protect front-line services and jobs was very clear. In the Progressive
Conservative’s Alternative Throne Speech they said, “we will guarantee no
front-line civil servants will lose their jobs.”
In the Free Press article Mr. Pallister now seems to be reconsidering, using phrases such as “I hope”, “I’ll do my best” and “as much as possible” when talking about the protection of front-line services. Instead of standing by the government’s pre-election commitment, the pledge on services and jobs are now referred to as “goals” and “a moving target.” There was no ambiguity of this kind while the Progressive Conservatives were in Opposition, when they said, “obviously you can’t have the services without the people providing them.”
Obviously, these comments have made Manitobans in general, and public employees in particular, nervous about what will happen to public services, and what cuts may be in store.
This uncertainty has been underscored by the fact that government ministers even seem reluctant to clarify what they mean when they say “front-line services.” At an event celebrating Manitoba teachers, a Free Press reporter asked Education Minister Ian Wishart about the pledge to support front-line public services workers ― and Wishart declined to specify what he considers the “front-line” in our schools: classroom teachers? resource teachers? counselors? “You need support staff,” he said, adding, “we’re trying not to define front-line workers.”
For those who strive day-in and day-out to provide Manitobans with the kind of supports and services they deserve, all of this is cause for concern. The quality of front-line services depends on the work of both those working behind the scenes and those who work directly with the public. The fact is that services suffer when you cut the people who keep the intricate network of our public service system running.
Time and time again, public polls have shown what Manitobans value most is keeping public services public. Survey after survey shows that Manitobans want to see investments that improve public services, not cuts to the services we count on.
As President of Manitoba’s largest union, I am committed to working with all MGEU members to keep our services strong and to hold Premier Pallister to his commitment to protect and improve public services.
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