Labour leaders met with the Minister of Finance, Irving, and Stevenson on January 5, 2017. Although the records of the Public Services Compensation Committee show that the PSSA was already being developed, and any consultations with Labour could only relate to content of the PSSA, the unions were told that the Government hadn’t started drafting any legislation and that the Government was taking a “blank slate approach”.
(Oh holy bullsh*t Batman because look at what they were doing the same day … )
That same day, Stevenson and Irving prepared the Advisory Note that set the final form of the PSSA pattern: 0%, 0%, 0,75%, 1% which was included in the PSSA, whose terms were, by that point, substantially drafted.
Everyone agreed to continue consultations via a Fiscal Working Group. Rebeck was the spokesperson for Labour. Irving and Stevenson attended on behalf of the Government of Manitoba.
The Fiscal Working Group met a number of times between January 25, 2017 and March 9, 2017. The Government’s notes indicate that the unions were committed to helping the Government balance the budget within the next eight years, but did not think that legislation was necessary.
The unions approached the FWG meetings with the belief that there would be meaningful dialogue and that the Government was open to non-legislative options. There was a recognition that Manitoba faced fiscal challenges, and so the unions wanted information so that they could help propose meaningful solutions.
As a result, there were many communications between Rebeck and Irving about the Government’s position. A great many questions were posed by Rebeck, most of which received no response.
The Manitoba Federation of Labour made a presentation entitled “Addressing Manitoba’s Fiscal Imbalance.” It was never responded to, was given a brief (less than 24 hours) review, but was never reviewed with Cabinet. The Manitoba Nurses Union also made a presentation on saving money through better management of overtime hours. Although described by Irving as “amazing,” the Government never pursued it.
At no time during the consultations with the Fiscal Working Group were the unions told that the PSSA was already in development, its terms were being worked on as they spoke, and that those terms were, already substantially determined, even when Kevin Rebeck specifically asked.
… according to media reports, draft legislation is already prepared and is already being prepared … If there is draft legislation outlining the Government’s preferred options, we would be eager to review it as soon as possible – and early in the process, in order that we may provide thoughtful and constructive input. [Email from Rebeck to Irving, January 10, 2017]
As a result, Labour was never given any opportunity to provide input on the terms of the PSSA. In fact, Labour was never told those terms existed.
During the four meetings of the FWG that took place from January to March of 2017, the unions expressed their frustration about the lack of financial information and the status of the PSSA (was there going to be legislation or not?).
Rebeck summarized these concerns in a letter to Irving dated March 7, 2017: