Mel Myers Labour Conference
March 15, 16, 2018
Executive Report – Submitted by Dave Najduch
I have attended this conference on numerous occasions over the years. It brings together much of the labour movement in the province to discuss issues of growing concern, take training which would be helpful in delivering member services and provide updates on the latest court and labour board rulings which can impact the work we do. The format provides for keynote speakers and various breakout sessions over the two days. A bonus to the conference is the ability to meet others who work in the labour movement outside of the MTS venue. Of interest in this area for me was the opportunity to have breakfast with the President of the University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) and discuss a wide range of topics.
On the first day I attend the following sessions:
- Bill 28, One Year On: Update on Constitutional Challenge; and Collective Bargaining-Why Unions Matter
- Breakout: Unions 101
- Breakout: Ask a Labour Lawyer
- Breakout: The Effective Business Agent
On day two I attended:
- Plenary: Compassion Fatigue: Effective Strategies and Practical Tips
- Breakout: Workplace Privacy
- Plenary: Top 10 Cases from 2017
I would like to focus this short report on the first Plenary, Bill 28, One Year on: Update on Constitutional Challenge; and Collective Bargaining-Why Unions Matter. Bill 28 would see no salary increases or cost items negotiated for a period of two years and then a .75% and 1% increase in years three and four. This legislation mirrors what has been introduced in Nova Scotia. The following touches on what I believe were the high points of the presentation.
The first speaker in the group was Kevin Rebeck of the Manitoba Federation of Labour. Mr. Rebeck summarized the efforts of the MLF and other labour groups to engage the government in meaningful discussion regarding their efforts to balance the governments books. A coalition of unions presented a plan which would have seen this occur over an eight-year period. The government rejected the plan and the rest of the talks were not productive. An important point to be taken away from Mr. Rebeck’s presentation is that the labour movement has come together (28 unions) to challenge in court the government and their anti-labour legislation.
A first step in the challenge process will focus on an injunction. Since the Supreme Court will eventually rule on the matter, the coalition of unions is asking that the Manitoba legislation not take effect until after the high court has dealt with the issue. The injunction regarding Bill 28 was to be argued in front of a Manitoba court the end of May. The second speaker in the plenary was Garth Smorang of the Myers firm, he discussed the injunction, Bill 28 and also reviewed the UMFA contract negotiations and the subsequent ruling by the Labour Board. The Board found the University to have bargained in bad faith and provided for a financial amount to be awarded to each UMFA member impacted.
The final speaker in the session was labour Professor Robert Hebdon. He will appear as an “expert witness” at the injunction hearing. He provided an overview of labour’s rights and their linkage to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. His information provided a context for the Bill 28 discussion. An important final comment by the professor was that the court actions both in Manitoba and Nova Scotia could have a significant impact on labour movement throughout the rest of Canada.
For those of you interested in getting involved in the WTA or MTS, this two-day session provides an excellent opportunity to learn about the work of unions and the issues they face. Over the years, the speakers and topics have been informative and timely. I would encourage anyone with access to the PD time and funds to attend this yearly session.