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PC-NDP Pension Bill Foul-Up Driving Roblin Lab Closure & Public Sector Losses

Treaty 1 Territory, Winnipeg MB - Manitoba Liberals say that a public sector pension bill that has been bungled by the PCs and NDP alike is driving resignations, cuts and closures to services - including a medical lab in Roblin, Manitoba.

With little notice and no consultation, the PCs have announced that a lab in Roblin will be closed as of Sept 1 and services consolidated in Russell. The council of the municipality of Roblin said the lab closure was announced with no consultation and expressed concerns that it would put the local hospital and ER at risk of closure.

"In the middle of pandemic, the Pallister PCs are closing a rural lab in the Prairie Mountain Health RHA the very region where Covid-19 outbreaks are highest," said Dougald Lamont, Manitoba Liberal Leader and MLA for St. Boniface. "This lab should not be closing and the province should be stepping up to hire new lab techs to make sure rural health care has the support it needs."

Lamont said the lab closure is part of a bigger problem: that provincial employees are engaged in "panic retirements" because of uncertainty around Bill 43, a bill to change public pensions that was supposed to be passed earlier this spring.

The bill changes is designed to strengthen and stabilize the fund, which covers more than 30,000 provincial employees. If the bill passes, employees would be able take out a lump sum based on how long they have worked and the best performing years in the fund. Currently, if 1200 employees retire and take out their entire pension as a lump sum, it would mean increased pension contributions for the remaining employees.

The bill has the support of public sector unions, who have been seeking the changes for years.

An all party agreement to pass the bill in a day fell apart when the NDP refused a vote - even though a similar bill had been tabled by the NDP when they were in power.

Lamont said the NDP's decision to block the bill instead of passing it is going to cost the vast majority of pension members more while driving people out of the public service, resulting in service cuts.

"We fully understand why public employees have no trust in the PCs, since the Pallister Government has treated them as the enemy since day one," said Lamont. "But right now, the NDPs decision to hold up legislation is going to cost tens of thousands of public employees more for their pension, while driving people out of the public service and helping Pallister in his goal of eliminating services. All of this is happening at the expense of workers and communities."

Difficult though it may be to believe, Bill 43 will provide greater pension cost stability and security for public sector workers.

Lamont said the legislature should return for an emergency session to pass Bill 43, among other emergency measures, and said the Pallister Government needs to present a plan to strengthen rural health care with dollars attached. Liberals asked for the Manitoba Legislature to make up for seven weeks of lost sitting days in June and September, but the PC Government opted for vacation instead.

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