Manitoba minister keeps union meeting under wraps

Manitoba minister keeps union meeting under wraps

Manitoba minister keeps union meeting under wraps Manitoba Finance Minister Cameron Friesen has invited officials from three big unions to a meeting early next month, but he won't reveal what's on the agenda.

The Manitoba Federation of Labour, Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union and the Canadian Union of Public Employees confirm they've been asked to meet with Friesen on Jan. 5.

The finance minister says in an emailed statement that he won't comment on private meetings, but he's looking forward to ongoing talks with labour leaders.

Manitoba CUPE president Kelly Moist says Premier Brian Pallister will not be at the gathering.

Pallister has said in recent weeks that he wants to meet with public-sector labour leaders to hear their ideas on how to whittle down the province's deficit.

Friesen said earlier this week that the burgeoning deficit now exceeds $1 billion.

``CUPE is open to discussion with government and ready to listen to what government has to say,'' said Moist. ``We were advised that the premier would not be in attendance at this meeting, so are continuing to wait for that opportunity.''

MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky said if the finance minister invites her, she's happy to attend.
``He didn't provide an agenda and I didn't ask,'' she said.

MFL president Kevin Rebeck said he's eager to attend Friesen's meeting, but is frustrated Pallister hasn't reached out.

In his state-of-the-province address Dec. 8, Pallister said he wants to reduce the number of health-care bargaining units from the current 169.

He has been accused of planning to impose a wage freeze on public workers and considering opening up existing contracts.

The University of Manitoba and its faculty association said Pallister directed them to take a ``pause'' year with a wage freeze while they were still in negotiations for a new collective agreement.

Pallister has not confirmed any of the allegations, but has repeatedly called for ``all hands on deck'' to deal with the deficit.

The premier is currently in Costa Rica at his family vacation home, but is expected back before Jan. 5.
The Manitoba Teachers' Society and the UMFA said they've had no contact from Pallister nor have they been invited to meet with Friesen. The Manitoba Nurses Union could not be reached Wednesday.
  • The Canadian Press