PCs Interfere in School Bargaining, Continue to Demand Wage Freezes in a Pandemic

February 12, 2021

Treaty 1 Territory, Homeland of the Métis Nation, Winnipeg MB—The Manitoba NDP is demanding the PC government stop its interference in school divisions’ collective bargaining process after a letter to Superintendents revealed a government plan to impose wage freezes for educators and school staff across the province.

"Educators are the unsung heroes of this pandemic. They have shouldered new burdens, like public health expectations, tech challenges and mental health needs, so that our kids can continue to learn and grow in the classroom,” said NDP Leader Wab Kinew. “They deserve recognition. Yet the PCs are interfering in their bargaining process and imposing wage freezes before staff can even get to the table. The government needs to back off and show some support for educators.”

The Manitoba NDP is sharing a February 2nd letter sent from the Deputy Minister of Education to Superintendents of school divisions across the province saying, “all school divisions must obtain a bargaining mandate from the Public Sector Compensation Committee of Cabinet, prior to undertaking collective bargaining.” It signals the PCs plan to use the pandemic as justification for wage freezes, saying “it must also take into account the realities and breadth of the fiscal challenges caused by the pandemic.”

This will be the fourth time the PC government has interfered in collective bargaining with public sector workers and demanded wage freezes, sometimes prompting strikes. Workers at the University of Manitoba, Manitoba Hydro and bus drivers with the Winnipeg School Division were all unable to bargain effectively because of a government mandate to impose wage freezes.

As many divisions approach bargaining the threat of the PC’s secret K-12 review and Bill 64 The Education Modernization Act, which promise deep cuts to schools and chaos for staff, hangs over educators. “Educators know the PCs first priority isn’t investing in classrooms and supporting them, it’s finding new ways to cut,” said Nello Altomare, NDP Education Critic.

“Educators are fearful about what’s coming down the pipe from this government, and that fear will certainly tinge the bargaining process. The government should release their K-12 review and the contents of their bill so that educators can know their plan.”