Manitoba health care and community support workers vote for strike mandate

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The union representing health care and community support workers in Manitoba says its members have voted to strike if necessary amid contract negotiations with the province.

On Wednesday, the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU) said its members working in Health Care Support Services and Community Support in the Interlake-Eastern and Prairie Mountain Health regions have given their bargaining committees strike mandates.

"The ballots were counted and members voted overwhelmingly to authorize their committees to call a strike, if they deem it necessary," a statement from MGEU President Michelle Gawronsky said.

The union said wages have been frozen since 2017 and 2018 when the contracts expired.

"Just a few months ago, this government called these workers 'heroes,'" Gawronsky said. "Yet, at the bargaining table, they show no appreciation for their tireless efforts."

Gawronsky said the union would like to see the province commit to bringing in a third-party arbitrator if negotiations break down.

A Shared Health spokesperson told CTV News it respects MGEU's processes but said actual negotiations have barely started.

"All health care employers remain fully committed to reaching a new and fair long-term collective agreement for all of our dedicated health care support staff," they said in a statement.

"Securing this common goal will require extensive and collaborative work from both sides at the bargaining table, as over 100 predecessor collective agreements are merged into just 4 with MGEU."

The spokesperson said Required Essential Service Agreements are part of the process to make sure there is minimal disruption in any scenario.