Hard Infrastructure, Hard Times: Workers Perspectives on Privatization and Contracting out of Manitoba Infrastructure
Keith, Jennifer, Jesse Hajer, and Michael Conway. Hard Infrastructure, Hard Times: Workers Perspectives on Privatization and Contracting out of Manitoba Infrastructure. Winnipeg, Manitoba: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2021.
For several years, the Manitoba government led by the Progressive Conservatives has been pushing hard to reduce the number of government workers, while transferring work and contracts to the private sector. This report examines the push for privatization and contracting out of design and maintenance of Manitoba’s infrastructure and transportation services. The report focuses on gathering the perspective of government workers who are or were responsible for a variety of tasks such as highway and bridge maintenance, including snow clearing, capital project planning and delivery, road safety and enforcement, including regulation of trucking, maintenance of the provincial vehicle and equipment fleet, operation of water structures and ferries, as well as winter roads. Findings, based on reports from workers, include: Short-staffing is jeopardizing public safety and leading to burnout. Workers predicting a reduction in quality of service and assets from the changes. Workers expecting higher costs for taxpayers and reduced value for money. Civil service expertise is being ignored, with workers shut out of the process. These negative results regarding service quality and public safety are consistent with earlier studies, with Manitoba ignoring the evidence. The report concludes that the destruction of internal capacity built up over decades will be costly and challenging to undo, and that Manitobans, along with public sector workers, are already paying the price.