Health care union head blasts Manitoba health minister for 'actively ignoring' them

·3 min read

Members of a union that represents thousands of allied health care workers in Manitoba rallied in Winnipeg on Tuesday, as the union continues to seek a new contract, while the president of that union is now accusing the health minister of “actively ignoring” allied health care workers in this province.

On Tuesday, the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals (MAHCP), a union that represents approximately 6,500 allied health care workers in Manitoba, held a rally on the steps of the Manitoba Legislative Building, as they continue to push for a new collective bargaining agreement.

MAHCP represents members in several health care fields including rural paramedics, laboratory technologists, mental health and addictions counsellors, and respiratory therapists, but officials with the union say they have now been trying for more than five years to get a new contract after the previous one expired, but continue to feel they are not getting any closer to an agreement with Shared Health or the province.

And although MAHCP says they are now in mediation with Shared Health, they continue to be frustrated with a lack of progress on contract talks.

“Everyone is frustrated,” MAHCP president Jason Linklater said while speaking to the Winnipeg Sun. “We have not seen any real evidence to this day that they are interested in getting things done.

“It is the same rhetoric over and over again from this government, and it still doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.”

Linklater said he is also frustrated with Manitoba’s Health Minister Audrey Gordon, as he says MAHCP continues to try and initiate discussions with Gordon, but often feels “ignored” by the minister.

“That is one of the biggest reasons we have been so frustrated,” Linklater said. “We have been asking the health minister over and over again for meetings, and she actively avoids and rejects meeting with us.”

Back in April, MAHCP held a strike vote, and approximately 99% of members voted in favour, according to Linklater, and he says that shows just how frustrated their members have become.

“When you have 6,500 members and 99% vote to strike, than that is a clear and overwhelming message,” he said.

Linklater said that he hopes negotiations can lead to a collective bargaining agreement before it gets to the point where employees go on strike.

“The strike is always going to be a last resort, and we will try and take every step we can take before we get to the point where we go on strike, but our members are sending a strong message that we need to see progress, and we can’t wait any longer,” he said.

A Shared Health spokesperson said they are optimistic that a deal will get done that will satisfy MAHCP members.

“Active negotiations with MAHCP are ongoing and the parties are in mediation. A block of upcoming sessions are occurring with Mr. Arne Peltz, a mediator with more than 30 years’ experience,” the spokesperson said.

“We have concluded mutually satisfactory collective agreements with all of our other health care workers, and look forward to concluding negotiations and securing a new, fair and long-term contract for our valued MAHCP staff.

“Like the other contracts, we expect this will include compounding annual increases in each year, significant retroactive pay, and special market adjustments.”

In a statement, a provincial spokesperson did not respond to Linklater’s specific comments regarding the health minister, but did say the province also hopes to see a deal done soon.

“Manitoba’s allied health care workers are respected and appreciated by all Manitobans and we need to let the bargaining process work,” the spokesperson said. “Government is not the employer, but all of the parties are in very active bargaining, assisted by a highly regarded mediator.

“Like all other dedicated health care workers already under contract, about 85% of the total health care workforce, we fully expect that new, fair, long term agreements for all allied health staff will be achieved.”

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun