NDP promises to ban mandatory OT for nurses

Manitoba New Democrats say nurses won't be required to work overtime if the party returns to power next week.

Ban on practice might take four years to implement, leader Wab Kinew says

Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew, standing in a park used by several parties during this election campaign, has pledged to end mandatory overtime for nurses. (Bartley Kives/CBC)

Manitoba New Democrats say nurses won't be required to work overtime if the party returns to power next week.

In the latest of many health-care pledges by the NDP, leader Wab Kinew promised Wednesday to pass legislation banning mandatory overtime for nurses to end what he described as an unfair and unsafe labour practice.

The ban would not be enacted until the province hires enough nurses to create safe conditions in hospitals for patients, he said, standing with nurses in a park opposite St. Boniface Hospital.

That might take until the fourth year of an NDP government, he conceded.

"We won't make changes to the health-care system until it's safe and responsible for us to do so, but this is a long-term commitment to getting it right," Kinew said. 

There are hundreds of nursing vacancies in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority alone, said Manitoba Nurses Union president Darlene Jackson, who attended the NDP event and spoke in favour of Kinew's pledge.

In August, Progressive Conservative leader Brian Pallister vowed to hire 200 new nurses over the next four years.

Jackson said the PC pledge is unrealistic because vacancies would have to be filled first. 

Kinew and Jackson said the NDP pledge is based upon a practice in the state of New York. Exceptions to a ban on mandatory overtime could be put in place under emergency conditions, Jackson said.

"The legislation actually speaks to what an emergency is, what an emergency isn't and one of the things that is not an emergency is not is an employer choosing not to staff to baseline," she said, accusing the Progressive Conservatives of failing to hire enough nurses.

PC leader Brian Pallister said while he's no fan of mandatory overtime, getting rid of it is an issue best left to labour negotiations.

"There was mandatory overtime for 17 years under the NDP, so that's an interesting new position and I think shows a desperate need to come up something that will endear them to somebody," Pallister said.

Liberal leader Dougald Lamont blamed both the NDP and PCs for creating the conditions for mandatory overtime

"There are huge nurse shortages anyway, right now. The system has been horribly managed. I've heard over and over again that people are on the verge of burnout, which ultimately places patients at risk," Lamont said.

Kinew spoke alongside nurses. (Dan Gagne/CBC)



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