Tentative deal halts strike action by thousands of Manitoba health-care workers, days before deadline

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Strike action by about 6,500 rural paramedics and emergency dispatch, respiratory therapists, lab and diagnostic technologists, and other allied health professionals throughout Manitoba will not go as planned this week, after Shared Health reached a tentative agreement in principle with their union, the provincial organization announced on Monday.

On June 1, the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals (MAHCP) threatened strike action if it did not accept a new collective agreement by 8 am on Thursday.

Members had voted 99 per cent in favor of a strike mandate in April. Their union said earlier this month that members had gone over an “unprecedented” five years without a collective agreement.

Bargaining began in March 2022 and mediation started this past April, Shared Health said in a Monday news release, saying the new agreement in principle expands upon a similar deal that was reached on May 31.

In its own Monday statement, the MAHCP said its bargaining committee agreed to postpone the Thursday strike deadline “as a show of good faith” after it made more advances in bargaining this past weekend. A new deadline has not been set, the union said.

“There are still a significant number of outstanding issues, both monetary and non-monetary, on the table,” the union’s statement reads in part.

“We must see more progress in order to reach an agreement that serves our members and puts retention, recruitment and work-life balance first.”

Shared Health’s news release says the agreement in principle covers “all major monetary components” of the negotiations and was reached through rigorous mediation. If approved, the agreement would include compounding wage increases and retroactive back pay for each year beginning April 1, 2018.

The agreement also includes other monetary gains for staff as well as measures to improve employee wellness, recruitment, retention, education, and career development, the organization says.

“Aided by the mediator, the parties will continue negotiations on all remaining proposals and issues over the next few weeks, to conclude a new collective agreement as quickly as possible,” states the Shared Health release.

Shared Health says should the agreement be ratified, employers will have successfully concluded collective agreements for about 56,000 health-care workers in the province over the past few years.

The MAHCP’s membership also includes social workers, pharmacists, physiotherapists and dietitians, among workers in many other professions. MAHCP previously said wait times were likely to increase and cancellations could occur for a wide range of health-care services if strike action was to take place.