Province Introduces Proposed Legislation That Would Protect Sustainability of Public Services, Improve Patient Care
March 20, 2017
The Manitoba government is introducing companion pieces of legislation to protect the front-line services relied upon by Manitoba families, deliver better patient care through necessary reform and bargaining unit restructuring, and guard against tax increases, Finance Minister Cameron Friesen and Health, Seniors and Active Living Minister Kelvin Goertzen announced today.
“Our government inherited serious financial challenges and unsustainable expenditure growth,” said Friesen. “It is clear that the status quo is not working and that ignoring the problem for years had put Manitoba on a path toward record deficits that threatened our province’s ability to sustain frontline services for Manitobans.”
In seven of the past eight years, expenditures in Manitoba have exceeded revenues by a significant amount, leaving Manitoba on track to nearly double the province’s deficit to $1.7 billion by 2019, Friesen noted.
The minister noted the proposed legislation is part of a multi-faceted and ongoing approach to ensure the sustainability of front-line services across the public sector. Early efforts focused on a complete reorganization of government departments and reducing the size of cabinet. The next step involved a more responsive and effective management approach, to reduce a top-heavy structure initially in the civil service through streamlining and consolidation, a process that now continues across the broader public sector, Friesen said.
The minister noted Manitoba’s government continues to focus on sustaining and improving front-line services through greater consistency and certainty around public sector compensation costs while at the same time enabling better and more consistent patient care. This legislation follows extensive pre-budget consultations with Manitobans and continuing dialogue with union leaders, he noted. Other consultative work nears completion, through expert reviews of both Manitoba’s fiscal situation and the province’s health-care sustainability objectives.
Proposed new legislation called the public services sustainability act would:
• respect existing collective bargaining agreements and support meaningful collective bargaining;
• establish a rolling four-year sustainability period, beginning at the expiration of existing collective agreements, which establishes a framework for future increases to public sector compensation levels and fee payments for physicians that would set out limits on increases as follows:
• in the first two years of the sustainability period, unionized and non-unionized public sector employees receive no pay increase;
• in the third year, a maximum increase of 0.75 percent; and
• in the fourth year, a maximum increase of 1.0 percent.
• encourage employers and unions to jointly find ongoing cost savings which can be returned to Manitoba citizens; and
• adopt a balanced and measured approach, by:
• retaining increases resulting from promotions and periodic or performance-based increases within an established pay range;
• not affecting pensions; and
• not imposing wage rollbacks or unpaid days off.
The minister indicated the legislation would apply to an estimated 120,000 employees, bargaining unit employees and non-represented employees of: the government and its agencies, health organizations, financial reporting organizations, child and family service authorities and agencies, universities, colleges, independent offices, the legislative assembly, political staff and school divisions/districts. The four-year sustainability period, and the percentage limits on pay increases for employees during that period, would also apply to physicians and other health professionals who receive payments under The Health Services Insurance Act, he noted.
Judges, judicial justices of the peace and masters, as well as other levels of government, including municipalities, would not be included within the scope of the legislation.
“Our government has been engaged for many weeks in a dialogue with union leadership and we remain committed to meaningful consultation with organized labour,” said Friesen. “While we have not been able to agree on all issues, we have listened and considered the views of all those around the table. We believe this legislation is a fair compromise that will allow us to achieve the sustainability of services that Manitobans expect through greater expenditure management, while preserving respect for the collective bargaining process.”
Accompanying legislation is also being introduced which would enable the restructuring of bargaining units to improve patient care while ongoing discussions with health-care unions continue, Goertzen said.
“There are currently more than 180 different bargaining units and collective agreements in the health-care sector,” said Goertzen. “This reality adds administrative burdens and makes it challenging to ensure integrated, quality care for patients across our province’s health-care system. The proposed legislation sets out a framework for us to significantly reduce the number of bargaining units and increase the flexibility necessary to improve the quality and consistency of patient care across Manitoba. Our ongoing discussions with unions will continue, as we mutually explore additional opportunities for further improvements.”
Minister Goertzen noted the proposed legislation would enable changes that could be phased in over time, and emphasized that following the completion of the Health System Sustainability and Innovation Review and further discussions with health-care unions, additional information could be taken into consideration.
Proposed new legislation called the health sector bargaining unit review act would include:
• appointing a commissioner to oversee bargaining unit restructuring;
• designating employers organizations to enable the streamlining of bargaining units within each region and in particular, within the Winnipeg health region, which currently has 113 bargaining units;
• designating an employer bargaining representative with exclusive jurisdiction to bargain in order to ensure consistency in collective bargaining across all employers organizations and provincewide health employers including Diagnostic Services Manitoba and CancerCare Manitoba;
• reducing the number of bargaining units from 182 to less than 50 and set out relevant factors to be considered – beginning with operational efficiency and the promotion of health-care delivery – to ensure employees are grouped within the appropriate bargaining unit;
• enabling employees to choose which bargaining agent will represent them by requiring fair and democratic representation votes to be held where there is more than one union eligible;
• allowing seniority and service recognition to be portable, from the existing bargaining unit to the new bargaining unit, and ensure that changes in bargaining units would not constitute termination of employment;
• defining the appropriate bargaining units for each region and each provincewide health employer; nurses, physicians, medical residents, physician assistants and clinical assistants, professional/technical/paramedical employees, facility support employees and community support employees; and
• setting out a process for concluding a revised collective agreement.
“Pay and benefits represent approximately 73 percent of the province’s total health budget,” said Goertzen. “When you take into consideration the fact that the health budget makes up nearly half of Manitoba’s total provincial budget it is obvious that we have a unique opportunity before us to work together to improve patient care while ensuring the long-term sustainability of our province’s health-care system for all Manitobans.”
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