Manitobans voice their frustrations, as the MPI’s strike enters its third month

Frustrations growing for some Manitobans, as the strike involving around 1,700 Manitoba Public Insurance workers hits its third month.

Sarah Jackson got into a vehicle accident on August 8. She suffered a spinal fracture due to the crash and was in hospital. Shortly after being discharged, she submitted a claim to MPI for her car, only to realize that MPI workers began striking. 

“Almost my entire time in dealing with MPI has been through this strike period,” said Jackson.

Jackson’s car was heavily damaged but not written off. She hasn’t had a car since the accident in early August.

“It should be soon. I’ve been in contact with the auto body. They have not said anything about their interactions with MPI, but it has been since August that I do not have a vehicle,” explained Jackson.

MPI workers have been on strike since August 28, when the two parties couldn’t decide on a new contract. Both the MGEU and MPI are looking to settle the contract at the bargaining table, and a new contract was presented on Sunday to MPI workers. The new offer includes wage increases of 12.2 per cent over four years, and a one-time lump sum signing bonus of $1,800 for full-time employees.

Igor Pecuk from Ivan’s Collision Centre in Winnipeg says his hands are tied.

“It’s been frustrating for us as business owners and for our customers, which is even worse,” said Pecuk.

“A lot of the customers, want the repairs to be done today, but we can’t accommodate and it’s nearly impossible. Right now, I believe we are booking into June and July for hail claims as it is, where we have to put priority on non-driving vehicles.”

Through this strike, questions are being asked if auto insurance should be privatized in Manitoba. but Julia Smith from the University of Manitoba’s Labour Studies department says privatization doesn’t necessarily lead to better services or jobs.

“At a personal note, I have lived in four provinces, B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Manitoba, two of which have a Crown Corporation providing auto-insurance, and two of which provide a free market, and my rates went up in both places where it was private,” said Julia Smith, Assistant Professor of Labour Studies, University of Manitoba.

“It’s been really frustrating for everybody. Frustrating for customers of MPI, in which I am one, frustrating for MPI the employer, and frustrating for the workers. No one wants to be on strike.”

For Jackson, she understands why MPI employees are on strike, but says she wants to see this strike end as soon as possible.

“My income replacement depends on this; my physiotherapy, occupational therapy, this situation is my entire life right now and all I want to do is push forward, get better and return to my normal life,” said Jackson.

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