CUPE health care support staff send a strong message voting overwhelmingly to strike

WINNIPEG – Health care support staff in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA), Shared Health, Northern Regional Health Authority (NRHA) and Southern Health-Santé Sud (SH-SS) have sent a strong message to their employers by voting 97% in favour of strike action.

“Health care support staff in the WRHA and Shared Health have voted to strike because they are fed up with the government’s inability to recognize their value,” said Shannon McAteer, CUPE Health Care Coordinator. “Health care support staff have endured so much with so little support, and it’s clear that they are ready to strike if needed.”

Health care support staff have been putting their lives and their families’ lives at risk every day by showing up to work on the frontlines of the pandemic from day one, a fact which has not been recognized at the bargaining table.

“Right now, Manitoba has 18,000 health care support staff who are exhausted and who feel disrespected by the government, despite being lauded as heroes,” said Debbie Boissonneault, President of CUPE 204. “This is both an overwhelming mandate, and a scathing review of government’s inability to recognize health care workers.”

CUPE healthcare workers have been sending a strong message to the government with a Province wide average of 97% in favour of strike.

The results by region are as follows:

  • The WRHA and Shared Health represented by CUPE 204 and CUPE 500 voted 99% in favour of strike action.
  • NRHA represented by CUPE 8600 voted 98% in favour of strike action.
  • SH-SS represented by CUPE 4270 voted 92% in favour of strike action.

“Health care workers have been working harder than ever for the last year and a half because they are dedicated to providing the services required to ensure that Manitobans receive the highest quality health care possible,” says Darrin Cook, President of CUPE 4270.

“It’s time for the provincial government to show leadership and recognize the sacrifice that health care support workers have been making and immediately make settling health care contracts a priority,” said Christine Lussier, President of CUPE 8600.

18,000 health care support workers across Manitoba are gearing up for a strike vote

Health care support staff in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, Shared Health, Southern Health-Santé Sud, and Northern Regional Health Authority are preparing for a strike vote.

“Health care support staff have been fighting on the front lines to keep our communities safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, while also enduring the Pallister government’s drawn-out attacks on health care,” says Lee McLeod, CUPE Regional Director. “Support staff are the pillars of health care, but are being treated as if they don’t matte­r—and that is unacceptable.”

Health care support staff have not had a new contract since 2017 when the government first tabled unconstitutional wage freeze legislation. 

Furthermore, the provincial government introduced legislation that amalgamated health care contracts – forcing dozens of contracts to be merged, pushing negotiations into 2021. Additionally, the provincial government forced cuts across health care since first being elected, resulting in a staffing and morale crisis. 

“Health care support staff are under so much pressure, and the government has shown very little respect for the work they do. After years without a contract, health care support staff want to see real support from the government, and that includes a fair contract for all staff,” said McLeod. “We are fighting to make sure no health care worker is left behind.”

CUPE is currently holding information sessions, as well as meet and greets with health care support staff to discuss the status of bargaining. The strike vote is expected to be held online and in-person, depending on the region, on August 18, 2021. No strike date has been set yet.

CUPE health care members please contact your local union to update your contact information as soon as possible.

CUPE 204, members register here.
CUPE 4270
, information here or contact healthcare@cupe.ca.
CUPE 8600
, members contact cupe8600@outlook.com or call/text 204 680-6072
CUPE 500, contact union@cupe500.mb.ca or click here.

CUPE represents 18,000 health care support staff across Manitoba in both Community Support and Facility Support roles in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, Shared Health, Southern Health Santé-Sud, and Northern Regional Health Authority.

CUPE health care bargaining update #7, June 10, 2021

Bargaining update for CUPE health care members.


Strike/job action

The CUPE Bargaining Council may call on the members for a strike mandate (vote) to support their efforts at the bargaining table.  Normally, unions do not call for a strike vote until there is a significant break down in the negotiations.  We are not at that point quite yet but CUPE has begun preparations in case we need to call for a strike vote.

A strike committee has met and are preparing for the potential of a province-wide strike.  We are not calling for a strike vote yet but the planning required for 18,000 members to go on strike is huge and that is why we must start preparing now.

Why are we not striking like the nurses?

The Manitoba Nurses’ Union (MNU) has taken a strike vote.  The nurses did not have as many collective agreements or classifications to merge into one collective agreement as CUPE, therefore they are further along in the process.  They also started bargaining four months before we did.

CUPE has over 123 collective agreements all with very different contract language.  CUPE wants to protect as much language as possible from all the collective agreements, so this requires a longer process at the bargaining table.  CUPE members have told us that protecting this language is important.

MNU has also stated they will be doing different types of strike/job action rather than stopping working.  Unions will not be able to stop providing essential care in a strike especially with the COVID crisis.

CUPE supports MNU and will stand in solidarity with them throughout any strike or job action.

What is binding arbitration?

Currently The Labour Relations Act allows for unions to apply for binding arbitration after sixty (60) days on strike. Binding arbitration is where an arbitrator (sort of judge) decides what will be in a collective agreement.  Usually, binding arbitration is only used when there are a few outstanding items, most often wages, that the parties cannot come to agreement on.  Once the binding arbitration process has started, whatever the arbitrator decides is what the union gets.  There is no voting on a collective agreement.

How does Essential Services affect a strike?

Before any health care union can go on strike an Essential Services Agreement (ESA) must be negotiated.  This is law.

CUPE is negotiating updated ESAs with the Employers.  The Bargaining Council may be calling on members for information regarding staffing levels and required duties for each classification at your site.   The Essential Services Act(Health Care) of Manitoba requires the unions to provide essential care so as not to affect the “life and limb” of clients/patients/residents.

We thank all CUPE members for their feedback and concerns.  We are doing everything we can to protect and improve your collective agreement and fight for fair wage increases.

Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) changes force support staff to perform nurse duties

Health care support staff are being asked to monitor patient blood pressure, blood sugars, deliver medical creams, and other treatments, all of which are duties of nurses, says CUPE 204, representing more than 14,000 health care workers in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

“The provincial government has made such a mess of health care that Health Care Aides are now being asked to perform nursing duties,” says CUPE 204 President, Debbie Boissonneault.

“These frontline workers stepped up to help with additional duties throughout the pandemic, but now the health authority seems to be making these changes permanent, affecting nurses’ scope of practice and putting support staff in unacceptable positions with minimal training and no additional support.”

In the fall of 2020, the WRHA began shifting specific patient and client care tasks from nurses to Health Care Aides in Winnipeg hospitals and facilities; a policy which has since rolled out across the city. Support staff are provided minimal training, and no additional compensation for the added duties.

CUPE 204 has filed a series of policy grievances in response to changing models of care being implemented by the WRHA.

Similar changes have been introduced in Home Care during the third wave of the pandemic.

The WRHA has begun directing Home Support Workers to administer medical treatments normally conducted by certified Home Care Attendants (HCAs). These client care tasks include supervision or administration of eye drops, oral medications, inhalers, medical ointments, and nitro patches – tasks normally done by HCAs but now being assigned to Home Support Workers who are primarily responsible for cleaning and tidying client homes.

“The WRHA is putting at risk the standards, work, and certifications of frontline health care workers,” says Boissonneault. “This pandemic has shown how important proper funding, staffing, and management of our public health care system is. We should be raising standards, not weakening them.”

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.

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.

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.

Public services in Manitoba are in trouble under Pallister: CUPE responds to Throne Speech

If the government plans to do to education, what they did to health care, then Manitoba is in really big trouble, says CUPE Manitoba representing 36,000 workers in the province.

“The province’s ongoing health reforms led to worker fatigue and staff shortages before the pandemic started, and now those issues have become even worse,” says Abe Araya, President of CUPE Manitoba.

“The looming threat of education reform has already impacted morale among front-line workers and educators in the school system at a time when the focus should be entirely on supporting our kids.”

Any report on education reform that was written before the pandemic is now archaic and should be scrapped, according to CUPE.

“We now know the value of having distinct school boards in our diverse communities who can respond directly to the needs of families, as well as the critical importance of ensuring school support staff have the resources they need to help keep our kids safe and help deliver the best quality education possible. Now is not the time for education reform,” said Araya.

The elimination of the education property tax will further erode school divisions abilities to respond to the education needs of their communities.

Health care in distress

On the health care front, CUPE continues to call on the government to increase staffing levels in long term care homes and provide robust paid sick leave to health care support staff who self-isolate.

“CUPE has called on the government to address the now systemic issue of working short in health care prior to the pandemic, and now we are seeing the very serious impact this is having on staff and residents,” said Debbie Boissonneault, President of CUPE 204 representing 14,000 health care workers in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Shared Health.

“The government plans capital upgrades in long-term care facilities, but why won’t the government meet with us to discuss staffing levels? Why won’t the government act now to ensure our support staff and residents get the care they deserve?”

While the federal government recently announced 10 paid sick days for Canadian workers who are impacted by the pandemic, it does not go nearly far enough to support front-line staff who have already used up their sick banks and vacation time for the 14-day self-isolation period.

Some workers have already self-isolated more than once, and the Provincial government should fill that gap.

“Health care workers, including home care, need to be assured that they won’t be financially penalized because they take self-isolation and the wellbeing of their residents seriously,” says Boissonneault.

“Health care workers have been on the front-line in the fight against COVID from the start, and they need to be able to continue fighting for the months and maybe years to come. Those limited sick days are critical in ensuring they can take the time away from health care settings if they get ill – COVID or otherwise.”

CUPE is also deeply concerned that the provincial government may be considering privatizing home care services for seniors.

“Home care must remain public,” said Boissonneault. “Private profit has no place in the delivery of health care services to our elders, and this government must not be allowed to privatize this critical service for Manitoba seniors.”

Child care “choice” concerning

CUPE is concerned that this government is going to move further in the direction of private-for-profit child care under the guise of “choice,” while letting the non-profit child care centres continue to struggle under the combined challenges of inadequate funding and COVID-related challenges.

Manitoba Hydro’s future uncertain

Pallister is chipping away at Manitoba Hydro, carving out Power Smart, privatizing Hydro’s money-making subsidiaries, and forcing staff into furloughs despite the continued need for a strong public energy utility, says CUPE.

“Pallister is leading Hydro down the path of privatization and CUPE is afraid he could use the pandemic as an excuse to sell off Hydro in whole or in part to pay down the debt,” says Araya.  “This government has been making very strategic cuts to Hydro, and Manitobans should be very concerned with Pallister’s agenda for Hydro.”

Lastly, CUPE urges the provincial government to support the thousands of Manitoba workers who have been without a contract since the unconstitutional wage freeze legislation was introduced.

“If Pallister cared about working people, he would get to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair deal for the thousands of front-line workers who have been stepping up to the plate to protect Manitobans every single day.”