Manitoba Shared Health nurses vote in favour of new contract, averting strike vote

Nurses working in Manitoba’s Shared Health region will not go on strike after they voted in favour of a four-year collective agreement. 

Manitoba Nurses Union president Darlene Jackson told CBC on Monday that the deal was ratified by 77.1 per cent of 3,400 nurses working at Shared Health, which oversees the Health Sciences Centre and other provincial programs. 

The newest vote represents a major increase from 43 per cent of Shared Health nurses who voted in favour of the deal in May. 

“Job action is a very difficult thing to do especially for nurses because we know it’s going to cause a decrease in service,” Jackson said. 

“After the contract was not ratified with the previous vote, we went back to the employers and were told very clearly that there was no more money, the mandate had been utilized and that we could only talk about non-monetary issues.”

A lady stands in front of a sign inside a building.
Manitoba Nurses Union president Darlene Jackson said she’s hearing a lot of positive feedback from nurses who say they are happy the agreement is ratified because going on strike would be a very difficult thing to do. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Earlier this year, the Manitoba Nurses Union, which represents more than 12,000 nurses in the province, announced that the Winnipeg, Southern, Interlake-Eastern, Northern and Prairie Mountain regional health authorities had ratified a new contract — except Shared Health did not. 

The contract accepted by the other nursing groups included a 2.5 per cent general wage increase starting April 1, 2024, a 2.75 per cent increase for 2025, and a three per cent increase each for 2026 and 2027.

The agreement also included additional payments for full-time nurses and part-time and casual nurses who work up to full-time hours who will receive a $12,000 per year incentive that takes effect April of next year, once the existing COVID-19 incentive lapses.

That incentive will be a two-year trial and would be continued for at least the remainder of the contract if it results in decreased overtime hours and reliance on private agency nurses.

For the Shared Health agreement, Jackson said the union made some non-monetary improvements — such as negotiating a letter of understanding with regards to nurse-patient ratios and safety within health-care facilities — which she thinks influenced members to vote in favour of the contract. 

Monika Warren, Shared Health’s chief nursing officer and chief operating officer of provincial coordinated health services, said in an emailed statement that the agreement reflects an effort to improve workplace culture, “so that all nurses are valued, treated fairly and know their voices matter.”

Warren said these efforts will continue to develop over time to ensure nurses “know how appreciated they are by their employer and by all Manitobans.”

MNU’s last contract, a seven-year agreement, expired on March 31.

While Jackson says she’s heard some positive feedback from nurses who are happy the contract has been ratified, she encourages nurses who voted against the deal to become more involved with the union by bringing their ideas to the table and perhaps running for the provincial collective bargaining committee. 

She said the collective agreement is a starting point for their next round of bargaining and that the union will continue to advocate for the safety of nurses with security being a top priority. 

Nursing culture and safety adviser

Earlier today, Carla Compton was sworn in as the NDP MLA for Tuxedo at the Manitoba Legislature. Premier Wab Kinew also announced that Compton would be the premier’s adviser on nursing culture and safety. 

“We know that fixing the culture in the workplace of health care has been a top priority for the minister of health, myself and our entire team, and now to have somebody joining us directly from the front lines to bring those voices forward, to be that front door for nurses and others in the health-care system who want to identify the areas where we need to fix health care is huge,” Kinew said at the swearing-in Monday.

Jackson said she also thinks having a nurse from the front lines who’s speaking up about issues involving culture and safety is important, and she looks forward to collaborating with Compton to bring attention to these issues.