More public sector layoffs are likely to come in Manitoba and a long ban on civil service layoffs will end.
Prime Minister Brian Pallister, in the third year of a pledge to eliminate the deficit in 2024, said he did not plan large-scale layoffs, but several cuts were still needed – mostly by not filling vacant positions when someone retired or stopped.
"Senior management is still heavy outside the core government, in the so-called MUSH sector (municipalities, universities, school boards and hospitals) and in Crowns," Pallister said in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press.
"(This) is heavier than what we want, so there are aspects that must be addressed."
Pallister was elected in 2016 with the promise to end a series of deficits that began under the previous NDP government. He has cut civil service jobs by eight percent through friction and has ordered Crown institutions to reduce management positions.
Around 13,000 civil servants have been protected from direct layoffs by special clauses approved by the NDP in the collective agreement of the last five years. The agreement expired in March, and the Manitoba Government and the General Workers Union expect axes to fall on many workers.
"Our own members are very nervous and very scared of what will happen," said union president Michelle Gawronsky.
"These people have to pay the mortgage and they have children to feed."
The government has notified about a small number of potential layoffs when the collective agreement expires – up to 11 workers in real estate services, up to eight employees in government translation services and several others.
Pallister said layoffs were a small part of the provincial labor force and spending restrictions were needed to end the year of red ink which caused two credit rating downgrades by bond rating agencies.
The province's annual deficit has dropped, but this year is expected to reach $ 518 million. Rising interest rates and uncertainty over global trade agreements are also a threat, Pallister said.
"In addition to trim management at the top of the organization, there are almost no layoffs," the prime minister said.
"Every Manitoban who has to manage money and get value from their salary will appreciate the fact that this is a government that keeps promises and stabilizes our finances in this province."
Gawronsky said Pallister also promised to protect work and services at the front line. Since the 2016 elections, several hospital emergency rooms have been closed, services such as forest fire water bombers have been privatized and subsidies for things like chiropractic care have been reduced.
"That is the promise made by this prime minister and his government, that they will … protect the services that citizens depend on Manitoba," he said.
"We don't see it in any way, shape or form."