Manitoba

Health care union votes to start in August in province's plan to slash bargaining units

Manitoba health care workers will vote for new union representation by the end of this summer, a provincial commissioner announced Thursday.

Health care workers will vote for new union representation in voting period from Aug. 8 to 22

Manitoba health care workers will vote for new union representation this summer, the province's commissioner of Bill 29 announced Thursday. (John Panella/Shutterstock)

Manitoba health care workers will vote for new union representation by the end of this summer, a provincial commissioner announced Thursday.

The announcement marks a step forward in the Progressive Conservative government's plan to dramatically lower the number of health care bargaining units in the province from 183 to less than 50, under Bill 29 or the Health Sector Bargaining Act.

The bill, introduced in 2017 by former Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen, will see health care workers leave behind their existing union representation, to be reorganized in groups based on job description and jurisdiction.

The end result will see the creation of seven bargaining units in each of Manitoba's five health regions, plus Shared Health Services.

The change has been slammed by unions already representing health care workers, who say it will be the unions against each other and will force workers to leave behind the representation they chose.

The notice period before voting started Thursday and is set to end on July 10. For the next four weeks, Provincial Health Labour Relations Services will work with unions to finalize voter lists, prepare for union appearances in workplaces and line up information packages to be sent to each employee.

Union campaigns will run from July 11 to Aug. 7, with voting beginning on Aug. 8 and ending Aug. 22.

Conditions for 'successful implementation' met: commissioner

The bill also saw the appointment of a commissioner, Robert Pruden, given sweeping powers to guide the process.

In an online announcement Thursday, Pruden said the representation votes had been held off until certain conditions for "successful implementation" had been met.

"After much hard work by the parties, I am now satisfied those conditions have been met," he wrote. "I want to thank everyone for their participation and cooperation to date, which has allowed us to reach this important stage."

In separate news releases Thursday, two unions currently representing health care workers panned the development.

"Health care workers across Manitoba deserve a break, yet this government continues to pile on uncertainty, stress and
chaos," said Shannon McAteer, Health Care Coordinator for CUPE, in a release.

Marc Lafond, business manager for Operating Engineers of Manitoba Local 987, said the reorganization is a disruptive waste of taxpayers' money.

"This is reflective of how our government has been handling Manitoba's healthcare system," he said in the union's release.

Both unions also advocated for what they can offer potential members.

"I am confident that we are well positioned to win many votes. We are a strong union that cares, and we support healthcare workers," Lafond said in the release.

"If CUPE wins the votes, CUPE will be bringing the strongest health care contracts in the province to the table," the CUPE release said.

In the past, the province has said Bill 29 will streamline bargaining units, simplify labour negotiations and align Manitoba with other provinces with fewer collective agreements.

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