After weeks of negotiations with Manitoba Hydro, CUPE 998 members voted today to accept a proposal for three unpaid days off work over the next nine months.

“Pallister’s cuts were wrong from the beginning,” said Michelle Bergen, president of CUPE 998 representing clerical staff and Technical Staff at Hydro. “Manitoba Hydro wouldn’t be able to execute mass layoffs without a negative impact on the safety and reliability of our energy utility. Either that, or they will run into service delays or extra costs like overtime to keep services running.”

“We continue to question the purpose of all this austerity,” said Bergen. “Hydro is operating at full capacity, is an essential service, and has not seen reduced revenues. Still, Pallister has demanded over $86 million in operational cuts and staff cuts.”

Added Bergen: “CUPE 998 Executive reluctantly agreed to consider the proposal for three unpaid days. We wanted CUPE members to have certainty and the ability to vote on the plan. That doesn’t change the fact that Premier Pallister has been pushing austerity across the public sector, and workers are paying the price.”

The agreement between CUPE 998 and Manitoba Hydro involves payroll deductions equivalent to three workdays from June to the end of March next year, and staff would be eligible to take three days off without pay. The agreement also includes language that prevents layoffs until the end of the fiscal year, March 31, 2021.

“Nobody is happy that Pallister is using the safety of his majority government to bully crown corporations into unnecessary cuts,” concluded Bergen. “To hide behind the pandemic in order to undermine our public services and front-line workers is unjust.”