Manitoba

CUPE wins largest share in voting among Manitoba health-care workers

Health-care workers forced to go to a vote for new union representation have spoken, marking a step forward in the provincial government's imposed plan to dramatically decrease the number of bargaining units in Manitoba.

Passes MGEU in provincial members after vote to reduce number of bargaining units

Four unions have been selected to represent health-care workers in various regions across the province: Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Manitoba Nurses Union and Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals. (John Panella/Shutterstock)

Health-care workers forced to go to a vote for new union representation have spoken, marking a step forward in the provincial government's imposed plan to dramatically decrease the number of bargaining units in Manitoba.

Voting closed at noon Thursday. Robert Pruden, the commissioner responsible for implementing the Health Sector Bargaining Unit Review Act, posted the results online after the votes were tabulated on Thursday afternoon.

Four unions have been selected to represent health-care workers in various regions across the province: Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Manitoba Nurses Union (MNU) and Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals (MAHCP).

"It was a way to try and just create chaos within the union lives," MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky said in a press conference after the results were posted. "They pitted union against union."

And CUPE was the big winner, she said.

Gawronsky said MGEU has lost approximately 8,600 members — the biggest hit to any one union in the sector, bringing its total number down to about 32,000 members.

Michelle Gawronsky, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union, said she heard from health-care workers who were feeling frustration and anger about having to vote for union representation. The union lost about half of its members in the health sector as a result of the vote. ( Tyson Koschik/CBC)

"We're going to miss our members … but this is a democratic society. It's a democratic process," Gawronsky said. "This is a premier that put us into this position, not something that we chose."

CUPE won eight units, totalling 18,483 eligible voters; MGEU won five, totalling 7,076; MNU won three, totalling 10,061; and MAHCP won two, totalling 5,896.

Six unions will not be representing any health workers in the sector: Unifor, the Operating Engineers of Manitoba Local 987, the local United Food and Commercial Workers union, the Winnipeg Association of Public Service Officers, the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.

In 2017, the Progressive Conservative government forced health-care workers — including nurses, paramedics and hospital workers across Manitoba — to vote to reduce the number of provincial bargaining units.

The health sector union vote was broken down into 18 sections across all of Manitoba's health regions including shared services.

As a result of the vote, CUPE has become the union representing the most workers in the province, surpassing MGEU in membership numbers. The national union will oversee 9,000 new members, bringing its total membership count to about 35,000 in Manitoba.

Liz Carlyle, CUPE's national servicing representative, said the campaign and representation vote was a difficult process.

"Unions including CUPE didn't ask for this process but we certainly wanted to keep our members," she said.

Liz Carlyle, a CUPE national servicing representative, spoke about the bargaining merger in January 2019, standing against the government's decision to shrink the number of health sector bargaining units in the province. (CBC)

According to press releases from the union, CUPE will now bargain on behalf of about 3,000 members in the southern region, 911 in the north and 3,500 in shared health services. The union represents about 10,500 members in Winnipeg, up from 3,400 prior to the vote. It lost some of its previous members to the MNU and the MAHCP.

MNU won all union representation votes in the nursing sector, president Darlene Jackson announced in a press release. MAHCP was selected to represent workers in the shared health and Winnipeg regions.

Voting results

  • Both sections of the Prairie Mountain Health Region have chosen MGEU to represent them.
  • Members of the Interlake-Eastern Health Region have selected MGEU across all three sections.
  • Northern Health Region members voted overwhelmingly in support of CUPE in both sections.
  • The Southern Health Region was split on CUPE in two sections, while nurses voted for the MNU.
  • Winnipeg-Churchill voted for CUPE to represent staff in community support and facility support. The MNU will represent nurses, and MAHCP will speak on behalf of professional, technical and paramedical workers.
  • For the Shared Health Region, CUPE will represent two sections. Nurses voted for MNU, and MAHCP will represent professional, technical and paramedical workers.

The overall voter participation rate was slightly more than 62 per cent, with a total of 25,768 votes cast out of 41,516 voters across lists.

Voters began to mark their ballots starting Aug. 8 and ending Thursday, following the union campaign period, which ran from July 11 to Aug. 7.

Bill 29 established a fixed number of bargaining units and collective bargaining within the province's health sector under the Health Sector Bargaining Unit Review Act.

Moving forward, the four unions representing health-care workers are preparing to transition new members and get back to the bargaining table.

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