MPI and MGEU set to meet with conciliator

The Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union and Manitoba Public Insurance are set to meet with a conciliator Thursday. Ahead of the meeting, MGEU president Kyle Ross spoke with picketing MPI workers. Edward Djan has more.

As the MPI strike continues on in its third week, there’s some optimism a deal could be struck as both the union and the employer prepare to meet with an agreed-upon conciliator.

Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union President Kyle Ross speaking with picketing Manitoba Public Insurance workers Wednesday morning.

His appearance comes on the heels of MPI and the MGEU preparing to meet with a conciliator Thursday.

“They chose to offer two per cent for all our members. When CPI is running high, where food, groceries, everything has gone up and they’re continuing to offer two per cent. They could have offered a fair, reasonable offer. It’s really unfortunate,” said Ross.

“We’re open to start a dialog. We know that these things can end fairly quickly once people start talking.”

Both MPI and the MGEU last week agreed to enter conciliation.

MPI workers first walked off the job on Aug. 28, with MPI saying they have offered to enter arbitration as a way to wrap up the strike.

“Binding arbitration takes the vote away from our members. That deal would be imposed on our members, and they wouldn’t have a say on the next four years of their career.”

The MGEU has been asking for wages to keep up with the cost of living and alleges MPI has offered workers a yearly two per cent wage increase over four years.

“What a conciliator does is they try and urge the parties toward a settlement on their own. Often the conciliator can remove some roadblocks that exist within bargaining, often, frankly, on the side of the employer who becomes dug in about how much they’re going to give, in this case, of wages,” said Julie Guard, labour studies professor at the University of Manitoba.

MPI says the offer they presented to the union carries an increase of up to 17 per cent in total monetary value.

The MGEU says the 17 per cent wage increase value is misleading since it also takes into account non-wage items, one-time payments and other items that only apply to a select group of workers.

“When the employer says that they’ve offered 17 per cent, I think we need to think about that with a grain of salt, because that’s not what the workers are going to get. They were always going to get whatever benefits are bargained to their collective agreement,” said Guard.

In a statement to CityNews MPI said they remain optimistic heading into conciliation but wouldn’t be commenting further.

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