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Talks resume after Manitoba Public Insurance workers reject contract offer

WINNIPEG — Striking workers at Manitoba Public Insurance were back at the negotiating table Tuesday, one day after they rejected a contract offer from the provincial Crown corporation.

Hundreds of workers rallied outside the legislature while their union was trying to secure an improvement on the deal workers voted against. That offer included wage increases of more than 12 per cent over four years.

Management at the Crown corporation did not directly answer when asked whether they would seek binding arbitration to end the strike, which began in late August and has disrupted services such as driver testing and claims assessments.

“MPI is committed to working with (the union) to resolve this dispute and bring our employees back to work,” communications manager Kristy Rydz wrote in an email.

The labour dispute is the first sign of strain between the labour movement and the newly elected NDP government. 

The strike started under the former Progressive Conservative government, and the NDP promised a more labour-friendly agenda after winning the Oct. 3 election. Premier Wab Kinew replaced all but one board member at Manitoba Public Insurance and called for a new contract offer.

Kinew also promised a “hug” for public-sector workers after years of fiscal restraint under the Tories. Some of the signs carried by workers outside the legislature Tuesday referenced that promise. “Where’s my hug?” read one.

The government said it wanted negotiations to continue.

“We’re committed to keeping the dialogue open and ending this strike as soon as we can,” Justice Minister Matt Wiebe, who is responsible for the Crown corporation, said in a prepared written statement.

Police were called in Tuesday after one union member outside the legislature was assaulted by a passerby.

“Officers learned a 29-year-old male approached a group of picketers and verbally confronted the victim,” the Winnipeg Police Service said in a written statement. 

“The incident escalated with the suspect physically assaulting the victim, causing minor injuries.”

Police said the suspect faces an assault charge. The union said the victim required medical attention.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 31, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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