Winnipeg nurse speaks out amid crucial contract vote

Winnipeg nurse speaks out amid crucial contract vote

Winnipeg nurse speaks out amid crucial contract vote

A nurse at Manitoba’s largest hospital is calling for better working conditions and a salary that can meet the cost of living, as thousands of nurses employed by Shared Health prepare to vote on a new contract.

“They gave it to us saying it was their last offer,” said the nurse, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals for having made her case known. “So the only option left is to strike.”

“Voting in favor of a strike is not an easy decision,” he continued. “And it is definitely not something any of us take lightly.”

Nurses in Manitoba have been without a contract for nearly three months.

The most recent tentative agreement included a 2.5 percent across-the-board pay increase starting in April, a 2.75 percent increase by 2025 and three percent increases over the following two years.

In May, the Manitoba Nurses Union (MNU) announced that members in five of the six health regions narrowly voted in favour of the agreement, with a 51 per cent acceptance rate. It was rejected by 56.97 per cent of Shared Health nurses, many of whom work at the Health Sciences Centre (HSC) in Winnipeg.

“I think what this tells us is that there is actually quite a bit of disagreement within the bargaining unit itself among nurses about the content of this contract,” said Adam King, an adjunct professor of labour studies at the University of Manitoba.

King said the province’s reliance on agency nurses makes it difficult to retain full-time staff nurses, since those who work for agencies often make more money.

“The employer and the government are trying to resolve a number of complex issues through the bargaining process,” King said. “And nurses are frustrated, and rightly so, with some of the deals they are being offered.”

The nurse CTV News spoke to said the changes made in the new offer were “very minor” and the contract “isn’t really any different.” She said it also doesn’t include a higher salary or better working conditions, two things she says are vital.

“I think moral distress is definitely building up in people and that’s why we should be compensated financially for doing such an intense job,” the nurse said.

Regardless of the outcome of the vote, he said he doesn’t know how much more health care workers can endure before they reach their breaking point.

“No amount of money is going to make someone willing to work here,” he said. “You can only have so many demoralizing days before you think, ‘Well, it doesn’t really matter.’”

CTV News has reached out to Shared Health and the provincial health minister about ongoing contract negotiations but was told it is not something they will comment on at this time.

A spokesperson for the UNM told CTV News that the organization will have more to say after the ratification process is complete.

Voting on the new tentative agreement closes at noon on July 8.