The Canadian Union of Public Employees has filed an unfair labour practice complaint to the Manitoba Labour Board over delays in contract negotiations the union blames on the provincial government.
The delays came when the provincial government decided to cut the number of regional health authorities to five from 11. That meant some of the RHAs that negotiated with CUPE for collective agreements now had Manitoba Government Employees Union members in their employ, and vice-versa.
"The government says it’s because of the amalgamation votes, and we say what difference does that make to negotiations?" said Mark Kernaghan, CUPE’s national representative based in Winnipeg. "Within CUPE, there are 10,500 members that are involved in central table negotiations. They aren’t all involved in the amalgamation votes."
Health-care workers from both unions will be asked to choose one or the other through a vote, on a region-by-region basis. Even if those votes were taking place during a contract negotiation, Kernaghan said that any issues that causes could be easily resolved through a side table negotiation later on.
"Nothing is stopping us from bargaining," Kernaghan said. "We go in, we negotiate. If something were to change, we’d address that in bargaining. We negotiate for a number of bargaining units."
CUPE’s provincial health care co-ordinator, Shannon McAteer, said the representation votes for the new Western Regional Health Authority, which encompasses the former Brandon, Assiniboine and Parkland regions, have not yet been scheduled by the Manitoba Labour Board.
"While those votes are scheduled, both unions are actively campaigning to be the union of choice. At this stage, both sides have taken different approaches, with the MGEU setting up trailers near larger health-care facilities in Brandon, while CUPE has chosen to have town hall meetings off site of MGEU workplaces. There will be a campaign period when either side can openly campaign within a workplace site, but until that happens, the two sides have decided out of professional courtesy not to campaign where an opposing union has membership," McAteer said.
Representatives from the Manitoba Government Employees Union could not be reached for comment at press time.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition November 1, 2012