Manitoba government proposes 5 days of unpaid leave for 1,000s of employees to cut costs

By | May 19, 2020

The Manitoba government wants about 6,250 civil servants, including deputy ministers, other executives and some union members, to take five days of unpaid leave to cut costs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter Tuesday morning to employees, the government asked that they take the five days off to avert temporary layoffs.

The proposal, along with details about which core government employees it would affect, will be discussed at the bargaining table and staff meetings, said the letter sent on behalf of Michael Richards, deputy secretary of cabinet, and Charlene Paquin, civil service commissioner.

“In our view, this type of approach offers clear advantages,” the letter says.

“By enabling — to the extent possible in terms of participation — our collective ability to much more broadly and equitably shoulder a relatively modest financial impact.”

The government previously warned of much deeper labour cuts.

In April, the province asked publicly funded bodies to draw up workforce-reduction scenarios over four months of 10, 20 and 30 per cent, but settled on a 2.2 per cent cut in payroll costs over the entire year. 

Within core government, the province decided on a 0.8 per cent reduction in payroll expenses, which Tuesday’s memo describes as a “very modest overall reduction.” 

Days off could be taken after Christmas

The five days off could be taken at any point in the 2020-21 fiscal year. The letter proposes that employees could reach the target for the most part between Christmas and New Year’s Day, providing it is “operationally possible and agreeable.”

The government has faced criticism during the pandemic for choosing to reduce labour costs. Critics say the province’s approach will prolong the recession.

Finances are suffering as COVID-19 prompted government-ordered closures of non-essential businesses and the health-care system brought in measures to deal with illness and curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The province announced one new case of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing Manitoba’s total number to 290.

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