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"This isn't a good day for health care in our province." — Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU President
Winnipeg (11 May 2018) — On May 9, the Pallister government proclaimed a new law that will force thousands of health care workers, including those represented by the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU/NUPGE), into disruptive votes to choose which union and collective agreement they will have.
Bill 29 is an unnecessary distraction from the priority of improving patient care
"The bill is an unnecessary distraction from the government’s commitment to public services and the people who deliver them,” said MGEU President Michelle Gawronsky. “Every dollar and every moment that will be put into this process could and should be put into improving patient care instead.”
The proclamation of Bill 29, which has been threatened by the Pallister government for the past year, means representation votes will take place throughout the province sometime in the next year.
Health care bargaining already streamlined
“The sad truth is that health care bargaining is already streamlined and has been for many years,” Gawronsky said. “There are already central bargaining tables and multi-union bargaining tables where issues like wages and benefits are negotiated, and then Local issues specific to a particular workplace are worked through by these workers and their employer.”
The government has not told the unions involved exactly when and how the votes will be held, but yesterday’s announcement means the process to determine those details is now under way.
“You can bet I’ll be pressing government for more details ASAP,” Gawronsky said. “Our goal is to keep all affected members as up-to-date as possible and any breaking news will be posted at our CareComesFirst.ca website.”
As soon as Bill 29 was introduced the MGEU, along with other health care unions and the Manitoba Federation of Labour, met several times with government officials to propose alternatives to Bill 29 and the disruption it will cause.
“We tried to avoid these votes, but the government has once again chosen not to listen to the advice of health care workers. They have chosen to proceed with these disruptive and wasteful votes.”
More about Bill 29
Last year, the Manitoba government introduced Bill 29, (The Health Sector Bargaining Unit Review Act), which will dramatically change labour relations in the health care sector. These changes will affect union members working in health care.
Bill 29 will reduce the number of bargaining units to 7 in each of the 5 health regions.
Specifically, the new law will force each of the following groups of workers in each health region to have just one collective agreement and be represented by a single union:
(1) Professional-Technical/EMS workers
(2) Facility Support workers
(3) Community Support workers
(6) Medical Residents
(7) Physician Assistants and Clinical Assistants
For example, Facility Support workers at various sites in Winnipeg currently have separate collective agreements administered by a variety of different unions. These workers will now be required to have 1 union and 1 collective agreement.
The bill also requires that there be only 1 province-wide collective agreement and 1 union for each group of workers within province-wide health organizations, including Shared Health and CancerCare Manitoba.
For example, Professional-Technical/EMS workers from all regions who work at Shared Health (which includes the former Diagnostic Services of Manitoba) will be required to have 1 union and 1 collective agreement, province-wide.
Where there is more than 1 union and 1 collective agreement for a group of workers in a health region, Bill 29 will require that representation votes be held. Workers in each group will vote for the union they want to represent them. The rules for these votes will be determined by Commissioner Bob Pruden who has been appointed by the government.
For those working for province-wide employers, like Shared Health, these votes will be held on a province-wide basis, not by region.
When workers vote for a union, they are also voting for a collective agreement. After the vote, the successful union’s collective agreement covering the most workers in that group will become the agreement for all workers in that group, and negotiations going forward will be based on this collective agreement.