Sweeping wage freeze for Manitoba Hydro

Sweeping wage freeze for Manitoba Hydro

Sweeping wage freeze for Manitoba Hydro Manitoba Hydra has been forced to implement a wage freeze for almost half of its employees this year, as it battles against rising costs and mounting debts.

The utility's professional engineers and non-unionized corporate staff – nearly 1,100 workers – were told last month that their wages would be stagnant for at least a year and senior executives who have been widely criticised for their sizeable salaries will also see their income plateau.

Unionised employees also face frozen wages for the next 12 months as three of the four unions that represent about 2,100 workers have negotiated new contracts which include a zero per cent wage hike for 2017. However, the trio of four-year contracts do include percentage increases of one, 1.25 and 1.5 per cent in the remaining three years.

Premier Brian Pallister and Finance Minister Cameron Friesen have warned that public-sector wages aren't sustainable, and wage freezes and opening of contracts are options.

Carmen Ledarney, the acting national representative for Unifor Local 681, which represents Hydro's gas utilities workers, described the new contract as a “reality of the new world we live in at the moment.”

“The biggest part is having Pallister in government. He is hitting Hydro hard and any public-sector services. So certainly that had an impact on our negotiations,” she said. “When you don't have a labour-friendly government, you know the money isn't always going to be there.”

Hydro spokesman Scott Powell said the decision to freeze wages of non-union employees was made by the executive team, ``to continue to manage costs to help ensure our customers receive the best value for their energy dollar.''

Hydro's 2,778 electrical workers and other technicians, who are represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, ratified a three-year contract in 2016 under the former NDP government.

It contained a no-layoff clause, a 2.5 per cent wage increase in the first year and two per cent increases in each of the following two years. Mike Velie, the business manager of IBEW Local 2034, said his union has no interest in reopening the contract.

“We view the contract we negotiated to have been fair under the conditions at the time, and we have no intention of altering that agreement made in good faith by both parties,” he said.

Hydro spokesman Scott Powell said the decision to freeze wages of non-union employees was made by the executive team, “to continue to manage costs to help ensure our customers receive the best value for their energy dollar.”
  
Premier Brian Pallister and Finance Minister Cameron Friesen have warned that public-sector wages aren't sustainable, and wage freezes and opening of contracts are options.

Carmen Ledarney, the acting national representative for Unifor Local 681, which represents Hydro's gas utilities workers, described the new contract as a “reality of the new world we live in at the moment.”

``The biggest part is having Pallister in government. He is hitting Hydro hard and any public-sector services. So certainly that had an impact on our negotiations,'' she said. ``When you don't have a labour-friendly government, you know the money isn't always going to be there.
  • The Canadian Press