A lengthy battle between the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union (MGEU) is now in the hands of health-care workers in the Prairie Mountain Health region.
The Manitoba Labour Board is asking health-care workers across the region to vote for one union to represent them, which will aid in putting an end to bargaining agreements.
Bargaining agreements between CUPE and MGEU have been ongoing since June. Members of the Prairie Mountain Health region can start to expect to see voting ballots for the union representation vote in the mail as early as today.
Both unions have released what they are calling, “comparative literature,” outlining the strengths and weakness of the offers being made by both parties. But one union said they’ve steered clear of dismissing their competitor.
“We are creating literature but we’ve tried to stay away from negative campaigning,” said CUPE’s provincial health-care co-ordinator, Shannon McAteer.
The vote is a result of the provincial government’s decision to cut down the number of regional health authorities from 11 to five. Currently, some of the RHAs that negotiated with CUPE for collective agreements now employ MGEU members, and vice-versa. Health-care workers from both unions are being asked to choose one or the other through a vote, on a region-by-region basis.
The Westman region, which includes Assiniboine, Brandon and Parkland, is the last out of the five votes.
The Manitoba Labour Board is requesting ballots be submitted by Jan. 25. Although there have been voting delays in the past, McAteer has high hopes that won’t be the case this time around.
“I’m hoping ballots will be counted by spring,” she said.
Organized information sessions and site visits by both unions have been ongoing, but are slowly coming to an end as members will soon start to receive and submit their ballots.
Both unions were unable to say just how much their voting campaigns are costing them at this time.
“We’re still very much in the middle of it,” McAteer said.
“It’s been a long campaign and we’re looking forward to wrapping up the vote so people can carry on with their lives and get back to work.”
All voters are being given three weeks, a time span that MGEU communications officer Kim Hes said is reasonable.
“We would like to give people as much time as possible, but I actually don’t think three weeks is that unreasonable,” Hes said.
Hes added that the Manitoba Labour Board will be in charge of collecting votes and releasing the results.
“We have no control over that,” she said.
CUPE currently represents 10,000 health-care support workers across Manitoba, while MGEU represents 12,000, making it one of the largest unions in Manitoba.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 4, 2013