The Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU) says agriculture office closures announced by the province will hurt local economies and reduce opportunities for families to work and stay in their home communities.
The modernization of the Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development (MARD) department and the Manitoba Agriculture Services Corporation (MASC) will close offices in 21 rural communities, and eliminate in-person service in 9 additional rural communities.
The changes are scheduled to take effect on April 1, 2021.
“The government calls this ‘modernizing’ and ‘elevating the client experience,’ but to me it looks to us like they’re just making it harder for rural Manitobans to access the services and support they need,” said MGEU President Michelle Gawronsky. “Now, too many farmers and rural business operators will have to settle for virtual services and travel farther when they need in-person customer service.”
Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development Minister Blaine Pedersen has stated that no jobs will be lost as a result of the office closures. Gawronsky says they'll be holding Pedersen to that statement. She adds the concern is underscored by the fact that these changes are to take effect the same day that the no-layoff clause in their collective agreement expires.
“The impact of these cuts on our members and their families looks to be significant,” Gawronsky said. “Will they need to move or commute to a distant community? Will they have a job? Our members in the many impacted communities are understandably anxious about this announcement and deserve answers about their future.“
Offices will close in the following 21 communities:
- Fisher Branch;
- Pilot Mound;
- Shoal Lake;
- St. Pierre-Jolys;
- Ste. Rose du Lac;
- Vita; and
“These office closures will be a big blow to rural communities and their local economies,” added Gawronsky. “The people who work in these offices support their families and local businesses. They shop at the local hardware store, buy groceries at the family run store, and have kids in school and sports. Rural Manitoba has already endured enough cuts by this government in recent years, these new cuts couldn’t come at a worse time when too many are struggling to get by.”
Other rural offices that will continue to provide a workspace for Manitoba Agriculture staff but will no longer provide any in-person customer service come April include:
- Portage la Prairie;
- Roblin; and
“We will press the government for the details about these cuts,” noted Gawronsky. “Our dedicated members in these offices and the communities they serve deserve answers.”
The MGEU represents 223 members at MASC across the province.Click here to see more...