Manitoba Nurses Union agrees not to strike as negotiations with province continue

Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer for Shared Health Manitoba, speaks during a COVID-19 update at the Manitoba legislature. Siragusa says significant progress has been made in collective bargaining between the MNU and the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

The provincial government and Manitoba Nurses Union (MNU) have agreed to new negotiation guidelines as they work towards their first contract in four years.

In a news release sent out Saturday, Manitoba Shared Health said the two sides have “established a mutual renewed commitment to ongoing direct collective bargaining.” This means the union has agreed not to take strike action, while health care employers will allow for further bargaining support with the help of an expert mediator and customized arbitration.

“It’s a very positive step for us,” said the president of the Manitoba Nurses Union Darlene Jackson.

“Should we reach an impasse at the bargaining table we will go to interest arbitration which is exactly what nurses in this province wanted, avoiding job action and any disruption of patient care,” she continued.

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Jackson described the union’s main concern amid discussions as a “critical nursing shortage” in the province.

“We have some really big issues that we need to talk about there. How do we keep nurses in the system and how do we recruit new nurses into the system or from other provinces especially since we are in a national nursing shortage,” says Jackson.

Negotiators have made significant progress at the bargaining table, where more than 60 per cent of proposals have already been agreed upon. The remaining issues include finding ways to improve patient care and allowing nurses to have a better work/life balance.

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“We all want our nursing colleagues to have the comfort and security of a new, fair and long-term collective agreement,” said Lanette Siragusa, Shared Health’s chief nursing officer and provincial lead for health system integration and quality.

“While we are prepared for every contingency, in order to ensure no disruption to patient care, this collaborative and creative approach will be welcomed by all Manitobans, including the health care workers who continue to meet the challenges of COVID-19,” Siragusa continued.

The customized arbitration process will have specialized rules that are not part of conventional arbitration, according to Siragusa. Manitoba’s nurses have been without a contract since March of 2017.

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