Unions using the bargaining table like buffet table: Pallister

Unions using the bargaining table like buffet table: Pallister

Unions have had it too good for too long, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said Friday.

The challenge comes ahead of legislation the Progressive Conservative government plans to table Monday that could redefine the way the province treats unions.

Pallister has vowed to balance the province's books, suggesting that savings will come in large part from whittling down spending on the public sector.

Palllister said Friday that after 17 years of NDP rule, his government is having a tough time turning the ship around. 

"Trying to get as much co-operation as we can from public sector leaders — who have had it fairly good for quite a while and have basically run the government — is a challenge. And really the bargaining table wasn't necessary. It was treated as a buffet table for a long time," he said. 

While the government can't discuss the details of the legislation before it is tabled, Pallister acknowledged it likely won't pass without a fight. 

"Clearly there will be contentious aspects to a lot of our legislative items. But I know that Manitobans know and public sector workers know that there's no security in a province that's — or reduced security in a province that's — leaking money."

The government said last year it planned to get rid of Manitoba's $846-million deficit over eight years, but its new balanced-budget bill contains no timeline for that. 

Finance Minister Cameron Friesen said recently that the deficit the Progressive Conservative government inherited from the NDP would reach almost $1.7 billion by 2019-20, if spending went unchecked.

"It's not going to be easy. Solving a billion-dollar problem isn't easy," Pallister said. "But it's got to be done because we've got to restore some sustainability to the way we're running things and we can't just keep going to Manitobans, including public sector unions, and say, you know, 'We need more taxes from you.'"