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Tories proclaim bill to amalgamate health-care bargaining units

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Michelle Gawronsky, president of Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union called the new legislation a “distraction” for health workers and a waste of resources.</p>


Michelle Gawronsky, president of Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union called the new legislation a “distraction” for health workers and a waste of resources.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/5/2018 (658 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THE Pallister government has proclaimed a controversial bill that forces the amalgamation of a host of Manitoba health bargaining units, the Free Press has learned.

The Health Sector Bargaining Unit Review Act (Bill 29) establishes a fixed number of bargaining units for each of the province’s five health regions as well as for each provincewide health employer, such as CancerCare Manitoba.

Under the legislation, a commissioner will be appointed to determine the composition of health care bargaining units. If a newly amalgamated bargaining unit consists of employees from more than one union, a runoff vote, pitting union against union, will be held to choose their bargaining agent.

By the government’s count there are 182 health care bargaining units in Manitoba.

Reached late Wednesday, the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union, one of several unions affected, provided a statement from its president, Michelle Gawronsky.

Gawronsky called the legislation a "distraction" for health workers and a waste of resources.

"Every dollar and every moment that we put into this reshuffling process could and should be put into protecting and improving patient care," she said.

"With other unions, we tried repeatedly to show the government that this exercise is an unnecessary waste of resources. Once again, Premier (Brian) Pallister refused to listen to health care workers. We have no choice now but to make every effort to ensure health care workers continue to get the strong union representation they deserve."

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents 11,500 health care workers in Manitoba, said the new law is "an unnecessary step" that will further disrupt the health care system following a year of upheaval.

"The last thing health care workers need right now is more uncertainty," said Shannon McAteer, CUPE health care co-ordinator.

"Health care workers are already working short, feeling disrespected by this government, and now they are being given one more obstacle while they try to do their jobs."

In response to the government’s concerns that health care has "too many bargaining units," 7,000 CUPE health care members formed CUPE Local 204, a single union local that represents 20 health care facilities in Winnipeg and Manitoba, including hospitals, personal care homes, community clinics, health care programs and more. This was done without disrupting health care, and at no cost to government, the union said in a statement.

CUPE has also proposed a bargaining council, where each union would continue to represent its workers under a single collective agreement."We can be innovative," said McAteer. "We have shown that. We can show it again."

Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen has not responded to CUPE’s request for a meeting to discuss alternatives to Bill 29, the union said.

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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Updated on Wednesday, May 9, 2018 at 11:47 PM CDT: Adds CUPE quotes

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