This week we’ve already seen a number of new developments affecting Allied Health Professionals and I want to provide you with more information regarding what we know and what we don’t yet know.
Yesterday I shared that the Provincial Government has finally agreed to provide paid administrative leave for members instructed to stay home from work due to potential workplace exposure to COVID-19. This is a partial but significant victory, and it represents a reversal from the Premier’s public stance last week. Our members helped make that happen by speaking out.
We’ve already received a number of great questions regarding the paid leave announcement. Unfortunately, we still don’t have any details from the Employer about how broadly this new policy will apply or how you can access it if you’ve been affected. We are pressing the Employer for those details and will keep you informed as soon as we learn more. In the meantime, we know it will be retroactive to March 1, 2020, so please continue to document and follow any necessary reporting procedures.
Premier Pallister also announced that his government will be seeking labour cost savings by introducing reduced work weeks in the public service. It has been reported that public servants may be required to work as little as two days per week if they have a full-time position, and then access Employment Insurance benefits for missed shifts. This announcement raises a number of questions and we, together with other public-sector unions, are in the process of seeking answers.
Here’s a quick run-down of what we know so far:
- MAHCP attended a conference call between government officials and public sector unions on Tuesday, April 14, 2020. Premier Pallister was not on the call despite media reports that he was. In this meeting it was repeated that health care workers are not going to be subject to this reduced work week plan, rather they are looking at other ‘non-essential’ public-sector workers to pitch in. Despite being pressed for a definition of what is considered a health care worker and what ‘essential’ means, there was no clarity provided.
- MAHCP represents a large number of members who work in community settings for organizations who are funded by grants and other sources that we remain concerned about in terms of funding cuts and staffing reductions. We continue to seek clarity on the government’s plan. If the Provincial Government tries to deem those services ‘non-essential,’ they will have a fight on their hands.
- There is no indication that the Federal Government at this point would even approve an Employment Insurance claim related to reduced work weeks. That uncertainty calls the viability of this proposed policy into question.
- Our colleagues from other Unions are rightfully concerned that we are finding ourselves in a position where public service employees are essentially being pitted against one another.
- There was no acknowledgement on the call about the impact on individual members who are being affected in myriad different ways. The focus was completely on financial implications and potential cost savings.
MAHCP continues to fight for each of you every day. We continue to fight for appropriate PPE to be available for every member. We continue to fight for considerations related to members who have child care issues.
We have seen positive results on some fronts and I’d like to summarize a few of them:
- Early on, patient screening was spotty. Members of the public were able to enter facilities without restriction and were being provided ‘elective’ diagnostic testing. Our members concerns with us and we ensured that screening restrictions and policies around diagnostics were being followed. Evenutally all ‘elective’ tests were cancelled or postponed.
- We successfully negotiated an updated memorandum of agreement around redeployment. We forced the Employer to remove terms such as “may” or “where reasonable” to ensure some compensation for members should they be redeployed during this pandemic.
- MAHCP has continuously advocated for appropriate PPE for our members. Two weeks ago, Employers finally released a “universal” protocol dictating PPE for every patient interaction. This was a limited success, but it was a step forward by establishing clear guidelines and acknowledging the need to protect front-line providers. MAHCP continues to demand that every member be protected to the highest available standard. We know that our members remain at risk because of PPE shortages or rationing and we continue that fight.
- Yesterday’s announcement about paid leave for Employer-mandated self-isolation due to workplace exposure was a significant step forward for MAHCP and our members, as I’ve described above. It shows that when we raise our voices together, we can make them listen.
There remains an enormous amount of work to do and we are working every single day to ensure that you are able to be the heroes that I know you are. I firmly believe that Manitobans are understanding exactly how valuable you are and I want to take this moment to thank every single member for your dedication and your willingness to share stories with me and your labour relations officers.
I understand the feelings that some of you are sharing. We have been without a collective agreement for two, and in some cases, three years. We have fought wage freezes. We have fought and endured cuts, closures and consolidations. And now we are in the midst of a pandemic. With all of that, you continue to do each of your professions proud.
Thank you for standing with us and fighting alongside us. We will continue moving forward together through this crisis and beyond.
Bob Moroz, MAHCP President