Health-care jobs up in air

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The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says it’s too soon to know whether the city’s overhaul of health-care services will require laying off health-care aides or not.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/08/2017 (1825 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says it’s too soon to know whether the city’s overhaul of health-care services will require laying off health-care aides or not.

Since announcing a number of initiatives last month aimed at cutting $83 million in annual costs, the WRHA has served roughly two dozen employment security notices to various unions representing frontline health-care workers in order to set a deadline for implementation in keeping with their respective collective agreements.

Most of the notices are fairly vague. For instance, the notice sent July 27 to Grace Hospital says only that changes implemented “no sooner” than Oct. 25 will affect an undisclosed number of staff working in physiotherapy outpatient services, respiratory therapy and diagnostic imaging. However, the one sent late last week to health-care aides and clerks working at St. Boniface Hospital actually breaks down the number of full-time jobs that may be impacted by department.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Karlee Blatz, senior labour relations counsel at WRHA, outlines staff changes as a result of consolidation, with Grace Hospital being one of the first to implement the moves.

In total, more than 215 full-time aide positions could be altered or deleted — a process that does not mean being laid off — as well as roughly 75 full-time unit clerks.

Health-care aides typically provide bedside care, while clerks tend to work at nursing stations and order tests, as well as discharge patients. At the earliest, these changes will happen on Dec. 1.

A number of other hospital workers who are also members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union could be impacted, as well. Roughly 50 people employed in a number of jobs including printing attendant, graphics designer, physio assistant and geriatric health-care aides have also been highlighted on the notice.

“The St. Boniface notice looks very different than most of the notices we provide because their collective agreement requires more specificity,” says Karlee Blatz, the WRHA’s senior labour relations counsel.

Blatz meets almost every day with representatives of one union or another in an attempt to hammer out agreements between the two parties on how the process will unfold. Only after, Blatz says, will deletion letters start to go out to individual workers. On that note, she says, there’ll be no news for a few weeks yet.

Still, even with the specificity provided in the St. Boniface Hospital notice, there’s no clear indication of how many people will actually be impacted. The notice only addresses positions that are full-time equivalent. In some cases, those full-time hours are filled up by several part-time staff.

Still, while Blatz was careful to note a deletion is not a layoff, she says the WRHA isn’t able to make the same commitment to finding jobs for all nursing aides and clerks who still want WRHA jobs as it is for nurses.

“We have very good data for nurses that shows we will have opportunities for everyone,” she says. “With some of the more specialized positions, we don’t have the data that would support any conclusion right now.”

Blatz says that even though the changes will be implemented in waves — Grace Hospital, Misericordia and Victoria Hospital will be first in October, with St. Boniface and Health Sciences Centre to follow a month or so later — she doesn’t think staff in later waves will be at a disadvantage.

Both HSC and St. Boniface have the highest number of staff, she says, “and they have some of the higher vacancy numbers, so they do have an ability to accommodate a lot of their own people in the changes.”

Without more to go on, Marie Buchan, the health-care negotiator for UFCW Local 832, says its hard to reassure workers.

“Members are very confused, they’re upset and they want specifics,” Buchan says. “Unfortunately it is going to be a long process. We’re not going to have an answer tomorrow, it’s a process that’s going to evolve.”

jane.gerster@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @Jane_Gerster

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Updated on Wednesday, August 9, 2017 7:26 AM CDT: Photo added

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