“Wall Report” on Manitoba Hydro projects opens new doors to privatization

The release of the much anticipated “Wall Report” opens the door to new forms of privatization in Manitoba Hydro through the use of Private Public Partnerships (P3s), the sale of entire divisions of our provincialpublic utility, and the introduction of private companies to generate electricity in Manitoba, says CUPE 998.

“Pallister’s approach to privatizing Manitoba Hydro is about taking one slice at a time,” says Michelle Bergen, President of CUPE 998. “This government is carving off pieces of our Crown Corporation for sale, winding down subsidiaries, and now potentially introducing P3s to our hydro infrastructure and allowing private, for-profit generation of electricity.”

Wall’s report recommends continuing the government’s agenda of breaking apart Manitoba Hydro by dissolving Manitoba Hydro’s subsidiaries, which the report suggests are not “core” to the work of the utility. Wall suggested the government could sell these off and “use the proceeds” to reduce debt. Wall specifically alluded to Manitoba Hydro’s natural gas division.

Wall’s report explicitly calls for the end of a fully public system by introducing private, for-profit companies to the market. For example, recommendation #2.1 in the report encourages the government to consider private sector access to hydro transmission to allow private companies to compete with Manitoba Hydro for export customers

The report also focuses on introducing Private Public Partnerships (P3s) to Hydro projects.

P3s are a form of privatization, and it’s clear that the Wall Report recommends opening the door for privatization of Manitoba Hydro ‘by stealth’. “P3s are more expensive, reduce public oversight, and result in significant profits for the private sector at the public’s cost.

P3s are often promoted with the claim that the private sector takes on responsibility for risks previously assumed by the public. However, so-called risk transfer comes with a very high price tag.

“Private, for-profit corporations in P3s aren’t participating in projects for the public good, they are there to make a profit,” says Bergen. “At the end of the day no private company would ever take on risk associated with building hydro-electric dams in Northern Manitoba without the expectation of significant private profit, and Manitobans will be the ones paying for that profit with even less accountability.”

The previous NDP government enacted legislation that ensures thorough oversight, transparency, and accountability for any proposed P3 project in Manitoba. This was among the first laws that the Pallister government scrapped upon taking office in 2016.

In October 2019, the Pallister government commissioned former Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall to take over as commissioner of a secretive inquiry into Manitoba Hydro’s Bipole III transmission and converter station project, and Keeyask Generating Station. The report was announced on Friday, February 26, 2021, and can be found here.

CUPE Local 998 represents approximately 900 clerical and technical staff at Manitoba Hydro.

Update for CUPE members

Dear CUPE members in Manitoba,

CUPE is aware that a charge of sexual assault has been laid against Abe Araya.

This charge has not yet been addressed in court. While this matter is before the courts, we will not provide further comments related to the charge, and will do what we can to ensure the privacy of those involved.

Out of respect for all those involved, we urge all members and locals not to speculate or spread rumours about the charge.

CUPE is taking this seriously. As per Article 7.8 of our National Constitution, the National President placed the CUPE Manitoba division board under “administration” on February 2.

You can read the National President’s February 2 letter to locals here.

Only the provincial division, CUPE Manitoba, is under administration. None of our CUPE locals in Manitoba are under administration.

This means the Executive Board of CUPE Manitoba has been dissolved and Board members removed from their positions at the Division. They are not removed from any elected position they may hold in their local union.

The administrator for CUPE Manitoba is Lee McLeod, CUPE Regional Director. He will be reaching out to local unions across Manitoba in coming days.

All locals continue to receive support from their CUPE servicing representatives, and your local workplace CUPE executive and stewards.

This does not impact grievances, arbitrations, bargaining, or our advocacy in the workplace or community.

The administration will give CUPE an opportunity to review the governance, policies, procedures, and bylaws of CUPE Manitoba, and bring changes to the next CUPE Manitoba convention.

We know CUPE has work to do on a number of fronts, including human rights and equality issues.

A number of resolutions were adopted at the last CUPE MB convention, and work to fulfill these decisions will be a priority in the coming weeks. They include:

  • Finalizing a “Safer Spaces” anti-oppression policy for all CUPE Manitoba-organized events.
  • In addition to the CUPE ombudsperson, ensure external expertise is available on-site to provide support for members at CUPE Manitoba-organized conventions and schools.
  • Establishing, offering, and holding culturally-sensitive peer-to-peer healing circles or circles of action to support members.
  • Once a new Executive Board is elected, provide them with anti-oppression training, including strong content on harassment, and ensure this is provided to elected leaders on an ongoing basis.
  • In addition to ensuring training is available to the CUPE Manitoba Executive Board, we will be making sure that training on anti-oppression, harassment, and workplace violence is available to our local leaders and activists.

Administration will also provide CUPE the opportunity to conduct a review of our internal ombudsperson program and processes to ensure victims feel safe to report incidents, no matter how difficult or serious.

With these challenges we are committed to building a stronger union for everyone.

Please reach out to Lee McLeod, CUPE Regional Director, your CUPE Local Executive, or your CUPE National Servicing Representative if you have any questions. We value all members’ feedback, especially on important issues facing our union such as this.

 

New supports for CUPE health care workers on the front lines of COVID-19

CUPE has finalized a new Memorandum of Agreement #2 (MOA #2) with the Employer regarding the impacts of reassignment, redeployment and shift disruptions.

CUPE worked tirelessly over the past number of weeks to ensure these new benefits were fair and respected your rights in the workplace.

This new MOA #2 will be in addition to the one the unions negotiated back in March (MOA #1).

We know that there have been unprecedented impacts from COVID-19 in the workplace and on your working life.  We know you have been working many long hours, and often working short under very stressful conditions – often while not in your regular workplace.

CUPE frontline staff have selflessly answered the call to help the facilities and units experiencing an outbreak.

In light of this, the new MOA #2 has included additional premiums for when staff are reassigned, redeployed or have their regular shift disrupted.  CUPE was also able to clarify many questions members had, including around the payment qualification and general process for everyone.

Download the new MOA#2 here.
Download the MOA#2 Appendices here.

Download the explanation document here.

Highlights of MOA #2

There is a “shift disruption allowance” (SDA) of $25, $35 or $50 per shift.

There is also a “work disruption allowance” (WDA) which is an hourly premium of $5/hour.  These will be retroactive to November 1, 2020.  These benefits and the benefits under MOA #1 can be combined if circumstances allow.

If you received the current $20 or $25 shift disruption allowance already for a certain shift, that amount will be deducted from any money you are owed for the same shift in the retroactive period and you will receive the balance of any additional monies.

Change in Schedule/Shift Disruption:  see Section 5 of MOA #2

  • You would be entitled to $25, $35 or $50 per shift (depending on the circumstances);
  • Your EFT should be maintained unless you volunteer or agree to work extra time or shifts.

Redeployed to work in a Personal Care Home (PCH)

  • You would receive the $5/hour work disruption allowance (WDA).

Working in ICU

  • If you currently work, have been reassigned or redeployed you would receive the WDA of $5/hour.

Working in a designated COVID unit or a unit/ward declared in outbreak

  • You would receive the $5/hour work disruption allowance (WDA).

Being redeployed to work in the North

  • There are special provisions for being redeployed to the Northern Regional Health Authority (NRHA);
  • $500 per bi-weekly period, travel allowance, mileage, parking, accommodations and daily per diem will be provided.

Being redeployed or volunteering to work in another town within the NRHA and you already work there

  • Mileage, accommodation, meal reimbursement, daily travel allowance of $60 and additional $75 per shift.

This new MOA #2 will be in effect until the end of the pandemic is declared and is fully retroactive to November 1, 2020.

Please read the full MOA #2 and the explanation document from the employer for full details, and do not hesitate to contact your local executive if you have further questions.

As always, CUPE is here to fight for you and your rights in the workplace.  Thank you all for your ongoing efforts in these challenging times.

Manitobans support public and non-profit take-over of private long-term care homes

WINNIPEG – A new poll from Probe Research, commissioned by CUPE, has found that two thirds of Manitobans would want the government or non-profit agencies to take over at least some privately operated personal care homes in the province, with nearly 40% saying *all* private personal care homes should become public or non-profit.

The poll further finds that over half of Manitobans do not trust private companies (like Revera) to provide good quality care to the elderly and chronically ill, and that eight-in-ten Manitobans do trust non-profit organizations and the government (like Regional Health Authorities) to provide good care.

“Manitobans have seen first-hand the critical need for strong, public and non-profit care for our elders,” said Abe Araya, President of CUPE Manitoba. “The Manitoba government needs to phase out private for-profit care homes and invest in a strong public system.”

More than half of all COVID-19 related deaths in Manitoba have been in long-term care facilities, with many in privately operated care homes.

Overwhelming majority of Manitobans support legislated minimum staffing requirements in care homes.

Ninety-four percent of Manitobans support regulations that would increase the minimum staffing levels at long-term care homes. Support for increased staffing levels runs across party lines, and finds support in both rural communities and Winnipeg.

“CUPE has been calling for increased staffing levels in long term care homes for years,” said Araya. “Manitobans understand the critical need to legislate minimum staffing levels so we can get our seniors the care and attention they deserve, now and post-COVID-19.”

On May 27, 2020, NDP healthcare critic Uzoma Asagwara introduced a bill to legislate mandatory minimum staffing requirements for long term care homes, however the Pallister government used their majority to filibuster it, preventing it from being debated in the last legislative session.

“It is unfortunate that the government missed this chance to do the right thing for our seniors,” said Araya. “With such a wide range of Manitobans supporting legislation on minimum staffing levels, you would think the government would act.”

The poll ran between November 24 and December 4, 2020, surveying a random and representative sampling of 1,000 adults residing in Manitoba.

Download the full report and data tables here.

CUPE represents approximately 19,000 health care support workers in Manitoba, including in both private and personal care homes.

CUPE: New wage support program is welcome news – Manitoba’s crisis in care still needs urgent action like paid sick days

WINNIPEG – The Canadian Union of Public Employees welcomes the new Caregiver Wage Support Program (CWSP), but warns that more comprehensive action like guaranteed sick pay is still urgently needed to stem the crisis in residential care in Manitoba.

CUPE represents workers in nearly all the eligible caregiving roles. The Union is hopeful that the program will be extended by adding additional weeks, expanded to help more workers (such as those working in Home Care, hospitals, and community clinics), and amended to include sick days.

The program, jointly funded by the federal and provincial governments, will provide a $5/hour wage supplement to eligible workers earning less than $25/hour who provide care in a variety of different care home, disability care, youth care, or assisted living settings. There will be two intake windows, in December and January, and the benefit will apply to regular and overtime wages for hours worked from November 1, 2020 to January 10, 2021.

“We welcome the new program, as it recognizes the sacrifices frontline workers are making during the COVID-19 pandemic, but we are concerned that the benefit does not cover enough workers, does nothing to increase wages long-term, and does not cover sick time pay,” says Abe Araya, President of CUPE Manitoba. “We wish it would not take a pandemic for government to recognize the critical role that frontline workers play in caring for Manitobans.”

Sick time provisions are a big problem for lower-paid caregivers working shifts, and CUPE has been advocating for guaranteed paid sick time for frontline workers since the beginning of the pandemic. Many workers have had to go without pay when they are sick or in isolation. Denying them the new wage supplement puts pressure on workers and on the safety of residents, their families, and other staff in caregiving programs. No worker should have to choose between paying their bills and safe work.

“If we want to get this pandemic under control, we need better leadership from government. Today’s announcement hailed the lowest-paid caregivers as heroes, but these heroes need better pay and the reassurance of paid sick time if they are home with COVID, COVID-symptoms, or required to isolate,” Araya added. “It was a missed opportunity by government to show they really respect frontline workers and will do what is needed to make caregiving safer for workers and residents.”

 The Canadian Union of Public Employees is Canada’s largest union representing more than 700,000 members. In Manitoba, CUPE is the province’s largest union, representing approximately 36,000 members working in health care facilities, personal care homes, school divisions, municipal services, social services, child care centres, public utilities, libraries, and family emergency services.

Health care support workers call for immediate changes to PPE guidelines

Health care support staff across Manitoba are calling on Shared Health to update PPE guidelines to reflect the Public Health Agency of Canada’s recognition that COVID-19 can be transmitted through both respiratory droplets and aerosols.

“Shared Health’s PPE guidelines related to N95 masks have not been changed since July,” says Debbie Boissonneault, President of CUPE 204 representing health care support workers within the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) and Shared Health. “Health care support staff are catching COVID-19 at work in unacceptable numbers, so something is not working, and it needs to be changed.”

Yesterday public officials announced that 16 support staff had been tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 48 hours, and that 476 health care workers have acquired COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. One health care support worker died after contracting COVID-19 at work.

Earlier this month the Public Health Agency of Canada guidelines were updated to recognize that the virus “spreads through respiratory droplets and aerosols created when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, shouts, or talks.” However, under Shared Health protocols, N95 masks are only provided to health care support staff when a risk assessment is conducted related to whether or not there is an ‘aerosol generating medical procedure taking place.’

“CUPE has been calling for N95 masks to be immediately provided to support workers who are working with COVID positive patients, residents, or clients, and this has not been happening,” said Abe Araya, President of CUPE Manitoba. “Our members are being denied N95s based on outdated protocols, and this needs to be changed now.”

CUPE health care support workers sent a letter to Lanette Siragusa, Provincial Lead Health System Integration & Quality, Chief Nursing Officer for Shared Health outlining the urgent need to change the policy to reflect current science on the transmission of COVID-19.

CUPE has also filed grievances across the WRHA, Shared Health, Southern Health-Santé Sud, and at Parkview Place calling for stronger PPE.

“Front-line support staff are telling us they are not being protected,’” said Boissonneault. “What we are hearing back from management is ‘grievance denied’.”

Read CUPE’s letter to Shared Health here.

CUPE represents approximately 19,000 health care support workers within the WRHA, Shared Health,
Northern Regional Health Authority, Southern Health-Santé Sud, and numerous private personal care homes.

Statement from Abe Araya, CUPE Manitoba President on the cancellation of the CUPE Manitoba virtual convention

The CUPE Manitoba Executive have unanimously voted to cancel our upcoming convention scheduled for Friday, November 20, 2020.

While we have important work that needs to get done as a union, we know that our members and activists are on the front-lines fighting against COVID-19, and right now that’s where they’re needed most.

Although our convention was to be held virtually, with all of Manitoba under an unprecedented Code Red, we felt it prudent to cancel this convention until a future date, when our members can fully participate in the work of our union.

We encourage all our members to continue contacting us and your workplace representatives throughout these challenging times. Your voices are critical in ensuring we can continue to hold government and employers accountable. And indeed, you are making a big difference in the lives of workers and families province-wide.

Thank you and feel free to reach out to me any time.

In Solidarity,
Abe Araya
President of CUPE Manitoba

CUPE calls on public health officials to conduct immediate inspections of private personal care homes

The Canadian Union of Public Employees is calling on public health officials, including the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, to immediately conduct in-person inspections at each private personal care home that currently has COVID-positive cases, and automatically launch inspections for any future outbreaks.

“We need to be proactive and have public officials inspect these privately-operated homes,” says Shannon McAteer, CUPE Health Care Coordinator. “The results of the inspection during the Parkview Place outbreak yielded important findings and recommendations, including staffing and personal protective equipment (PPE) that can help that facility fight the spread of COVID-19, but we cannot let other facilities get to that point.”

CUPE learned on Tuesday, that Maples Personal Care Home, operated by Revera, now has 70 active cases of COVID-19, including seven staff.

“Government and private operators dragged their feet before, and we cannot have a repeat of what happened at Parkview Place,” said McAteer. “We are asking for public health inspectors to immediately conduct in-person reviews at all private care homes with current outbreaks, and automatically launch inspections at future outbreaks to ensure each home is prepared for, and can prevent an outbreak.”

CUPE represents support staff in 10 private personal care homes in Manitoba, including Revera facilities: Parkview Place; Heritage Lodge; Maples Personal Care Home; Charleswood Care Centre; Kildonan Personal Care Centre; Valleyview; and Extendicare facilities: Oakview Place; River East Personal Care Home; Tuxedo Villa; and Hillcrest Place.

CUPE 204 files 55 policy grievances against WRHA, Shared Health

Front-line health care support staff cite inconsistent provision of PPE

WINNIPEG – Seven months into a global pandemic, and many front-line health care support staff in Manitoba are still fighting for adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep themselves and the people they care for safe, says CUPE.

“Hospitals, long-term care homes, and home care employers are inconsistent in the provision of adequate PPE to support staff on the front-line in the fight against COVID-19,” said Debbie Boissonneault, President of CUPE
Local 204, representing 14,500 health care support staff within the WRHA and Shared Health.  “We are hearing from support staff across the city who are being denied or having to argue for protective equipment.”

On Monday, October 19th, CUPE 204 filed policy grievances at fifty-five health care facilities across the WRHA and Shared Health, citing the inconsistent provision of N95 masks to support staff working with COVID-19 positive patients, residents, or clients. In some cases, face shields are no longer being provided.

While health officials cite that N95’s will only be given in circumstances where aerosol transmission of the virus could be present, CUPE contends that health care support staff work closest with patients and residents, including bathing, feeding, and cleaning them, and that safety should be automatic.

Grievances include Middlechurch Home of Winnipeg, Misericordia Health Centre, and Golden West Centennial Lodge, all of which declared outbreaks of COVID-19 yesterday.

“In some facilities, health care aides have to beg to be provided appropriate PPE before working with
COVID-positive community members,” said Boissonneault. “We believe if a health care worker is assigned to a COVID unit, resident, or client they should be automatically provided every possible protection available without delay or resistance.”

Grievances were also filed on behalf of home care workers, many of whom have still not been fitted for N95 masks. Some are also not being provided information on whether their client is COVID positive or awaiting testing.

“Home care workers have been working incredibly hard to support their clients, but they are being treated like their health and safety are second-tier to the rest of the health care system,” said Boissonneault. “These workers visit very vulnerable Manitobans, and we need to make sure both the worker and the community member are protected.”

Home care workers also have very little “sick time” available if they are asked to self-isolate. While the new Federal sick time program will be helpful, it will not go far enough to cover a 14-day self-isolation period.

“We need government and employers to step up and keep all health care support staff safe…period,” said Boissonneault. “We have seen what can happen if we are not taking every measure to protect staff and residents, and we need action now.”

These grievances were submitted at the start of Manitoba’s Health Care Support Workers’ Recognition week, a week usually declared to celebrate the commitment of Manitoba’s health care support staff.

 

CUPE 2039 files grievance at Parkview Place

On Friday, October 9, 2020, CUPE Local 2039 submitted a policy grievance against Parkview Place, citing concerns over unsafe working conditions. The Union met with the employer on October 14 to discuss our concerns.

As of October 14, 67 residents and 22 staff have contracted COVID-19, and 9 residents have died.

“Staff at Parkview are doing their best to support residents during this critical time, but they need help,” said Shannon McAteer, CUPE’s Health Care Coordinator.  “We are beyond an emergency, and staff are completely overwhelmed and frightened for themselves, their families, and the residents they care for.”

CUPE 2039’s grievance called on the Employer to immediately provide N95 masks/respirators to all staff who work on COVID-19 units at Parkview Place.  Prior to yesterday, N95 masks/respirators were only being provided to staff following a nurse’s risk assessment.

As a result of CUPE’s grievance, the employer confirmed that N95 masks/respirators will now be provided to all staff working in COVID-19 units.

“It is clear that staff are contracting COVID-19 at work, and we need every safety precaution in place at all times,” said McAteer.

Parkview Place has offered an additional $2.00/hour premium for staff retroactive to September 15 and lasting until the outbreak at Parkview Place is declared over.  However, that premium does not negate the responsibility of the employer to provide a safe working environment and permanent improved compensation for all staff, according to CUPE.

CUPE’s grievance also demands the immediate hiring of more health care support staff, as increasing numbers of staff are exposed to COVID-19 and are forced to isolate.  In many cases health care workers have been unable to take breaks due to staffing shortages, leading to exhaustion as they continue to care for residents.

“CUPE has been warning the Manitoba government that chronic staff shortages in long-term care will result in crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in privately operated care homes,” says McAteer.  “This applies to all long-term care homes in Manitoba, and we need the government to take action now.”

CUPE 2039 represents approximately 163 support staff at Parkview Place.