Thousands of Manitoba’s health-care workers could go on strike in two weeks.
On Thursday, the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals (MAHCP) issued a strike deadline for 6,500 allied health-care workers who have been without a collective agreement for more than five years.
Unless the parties are able to reach an agreement in the next two weeks, a strike will begin at 8 a.m. on June 15.
Negotiations began in March 2022, and entered mediation six weeks ago after 99 per cent of MAHCP members voted in favour of a strike mandate.
“A strike is a last resort for us, but at this point we feel like we have no other option,” said MAHCP president Jason Linklater in a news release.
“The staffing crisis gets worse every day. Allied health professionals have gone over five years without a contract, Manitoba can’t retain them, and we are out of time.”
Allied health-care professional work in a number of roles, including as diagnostic imaging and lab technologists; scientists and pharmacists; rural paramedics and emergency dispatchers; mental health and addictions counsellors; respiratory therapists; midwives; and many in many other jobs.
In the event of a strike, agreements are in place to allow employers to schedule a minimum number of staff in each service area. However, the MAHCP expects a strike will cause “significant” service delays and disruptions at more than 200 sites across Manitoba.
The union said the strike could lead to cancellations and increased wait times for a number of services including non-emergent surgical and diagnostic procedures; routine or non-emergent lab results; and non-crisis mental health and addiction services.
The MAHCP said the “unprecedented” length of time that allied health workers have been without a contract has led to issues for staff retention and recruitment.
The wages of the 6,500 workers have been frozen since 2017, while the cost of living has continued to rise. During this time, other provinces have offered raises and other incentives for those in the allied health professions.
“We continue to lose highly specialized allied health professionals to other sectors and other provinces that are way ahead of us in wages and benefits,” Linklater said. “Manitoba has to start fixing this by giving them a reason to stay.”
Shared Health is surprised at the announcement, believing they were close to reaching a deal.
“Much progress has been made in recent days through intensive mediation with MAHCP on a new agreement that includes compounding general wage increases for every year, significant retroactive pay for general wage increases, and other extensive monetary and non-monetary improvements to support recruitment, retention, career advancement and education, and staff wellness,” said a statement from Shared Health.
“An agreement in principle had been reached on both the parameters and approach to general wage increases for the full term under negotiation.”