Manitoba Labour Leader to Premier: Let's Get to Work
Dec 07, 2017
The following Op-Ed appeared in the Dec. 2, 2017 edition of the Winnipeg Free Press.
On November 21, in its third throne speech since being elected, the Pallister government unveiled a plan to create what it’s calling a "transformative civil service transition strategy."
While still short on details, its stated goal is a worthy one. They want to "challenge public servants to better understand and meet the needs of citizens, question past practices and experiment with innovative ideas, and harness their collective talent."
As president of the union that represents nearly 14,000 Manitobans who provide public services through the civil service, often around the clock, I want to say on their behalf: great.
Let’s get to work.
Despite the fact that 700 positions in the Manitoba civil service have already been cut during the past several years, our members remain committed to delivering the best possible day-to-day services for their fellow Manitobans. Often, this has meant figuring out ways to do more with less.
After all, their families rely on provincial services, too. And because of their jobs, our members understand better than most the effect on vulnerable Manitobans — think struggling families, at-risk young people, frail seniors — when supports and services aren’t there.
This is one of the reasons the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union is a proud to sponsor of the annual Manitoba Civil Service Excellence Awards, which recognizes provincial public employees and departments for innovation, best practices and creative solutions to local challenges.
It’s also why I’m writing today. I’d like to challenge Premier Brian Pallister to make his government’s worthy goal for our public service more than just a PR exercise.
I challenge you, Premier Pallister, to include those who spend their day trying to make sure no Manitoba child has to sleep with bedbugs, or that our health-care records are up to date even though file workload has now doubled, or that our highways are cleared by morning, or that our precious Manitoba lakes survive long enough for our great-grandchildren to enjoy them, in your planning.
As I have many times in the past, I am asking you to sit down and listen to the experiences of those who have their finger on the pulse of the "needs of our citizens." To listen to their ideas for innovative solutions and "harnessing their collective talent."
I know you’ve already given millions to KPMG, an international corporate consulting firm, to recommend from above how to cut public service costs ASAP. You’re already talking about eliminating 500 more public service jobs in the near future.
But it’s not too late. You ran for election on a promise of a balanced approach to all this.
Just 18 months ago, you told Manitobans that you would "protect their public services and the people who provide them." You told us you would "balance the budget over eight years" in order to avoid reckless cuts.
The truth is, most Manitobans didn’t vote for what you’re doing right now.
We sure didn’t vote for those drastic cuts to services and jobs going on in health care across the province, even if you call it "system change."
A global auditing corporation may claim it will save cash fast and look good on the books, and that all you have to do is call it "transformative," but we still didn’t vote for cutting our public services.
And we haven’t changed our minds. Surveys run by professional polling firms consistently show that most Manitobans still want a balanced approach.
Most still value their public services more than balancing the budget as soon as humanly possible, consequences be damned.
Premier Pallister, our members have a wealth of experience and ideas for effectively and efficiently serving their fellow Manitobans. Let’s get to work.
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