Government Announcement Adds Even More Chaos to Health Care Representation Votes
Jan 23, 2019
Yesterday, the Manitoba government announced it will be changing the rules for the upcoming health care representation votes.
These new rules will drag thousands more health care workers, mostly from home care, into disruptive representation votes.
These new rules aim to give employers the ability to transfer workers around the health care system, forcing hospital and care home staff to work in other facilities, or even to do home care work, and sending home care staff into hospitals.
The new rules will add even more chaos and disruption to a health care system that is already reeling from this government’s cuts and restructuring.
These changes were proposed by employers and supported by CUPE, but would not have been allowed without these new regulations announced by the government. The government is changing the rules at the last minute to help employers get their way.
What are the changes?
In bringing in the new rules, the government is admitting what the MGEU has said all along — that the government did not previously have the authority to force intermingling of home care and facility support bargaining units.
Specifically, the government is passing regulations that will redefine bargaining units for home care and for facility support workers that have been in place since the 1990s:
- The community support bargaining unit will now include all non-technical/professional health workers who provide direct care to patients/residents/clients. This means health care aides in hospitals and personal care homes will be merged into the same bargaining unit with home care workers.
- The facility support bargaining unit will now include only non-technical/professional workers who provide operational support without providing care directly to patients/residents/clients. This includes clerical, trades, laundry, and dietary staff.
What do the changes mean for workers?The new rules will affect health care workers in two key ways:
(1) By blending home care and facility support bargaining units, the government aims to give employers the ability to move workers around the health care system — to force them to work in different jobs than they signed up for. Employers have said they need these changes so that they can transfer workers between facilities and even back and forth between facilities and community home care work. The bottom line is that this is about giving employers the power to force workers into work they didn’t apply for.
(2) By dragging thousands of home care workers into the votes, and by triggering several votes that would not otherwise have happened, these new rules are adding even more chaos and disruption to a health care system that is already on edge from two years of cuts, privatization and restructuring. Health workers already face enough uncertainty without having to deal with this new reshuffling of bargaining units. Every dollar and every moment devoted to this reshuffling exercise could and should be spent on improving patient care instead.
What is the MGEU doing about this?The MGEU will continue talking with health care workers about the choice they face in the representation votes. The MGEU offers the best service of any union in Manitoba with:
- a proven track record of negotiating solid contracts that protect home care workers from more privatization, that give facility and community support workers more flexibility in taking their vacation time, etc.
- a system that gives members in every Local, big or small, access to the same powerful resources — for grievances, arbitrations, contract negotiations, and educational opportunities.
- the only specialists dedicated full-time to helping members with workers compensation, pensions and benefits, and workplace health and safety.
- the only Resource Centre in Manitoba, a service that connects members quickly with the help they need by making a simple phone call or email.
- the lowest dues rate in Manitoba — a dues rate that has stayed low for more than 20 years while other unions’ dues have bounced up and down at mostly higher rates.
- a truly member-driven union — members choose who leads our union, who helps your fellow members, and who sits across from the employer at the bargaining table.
What’s at stake in the votes?The votes will give workers a chance to choose the union that will provide them with the best service and will negotiate the best contract.
Some unions are claiming that the representation votes are about which contract will cover you and your work. The reality is the Commissioner in charge of the votes issued a report on December 4, 2018 clarifying that you “are voting only on the question of which union will represent you,” and that you “are specifically not voting on which collective agreement will apply.” He said health care workers “will continue to be covered by their existing collective agreements including existing wages, benefits, working conditions, union dues, and so on until a new collective agreement is negotiated.” He said “no one, including representatives of unions and management, can guarantee what a new collective agreement will contain.”
By choosing MGEU, workers are choosing a union that provides both the highest level of service to members AND a strong track record of negotiating solid contracts in health care.
When will the votes happen?
Only the Commissioner can schedule the votes, and he is not ready to do that yet.