Jobs may be changing for 700 Winnipeg health-care support staff, a shift unions allege will eliminate jobs and reduce some workers’ hours.
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said the affected staff include health-care aides, as well as clerical, dietary and housekeeping staff, whose roles may change this fall during the first phase of a health-facility overhaul. The overhaul is eventually slated to close three Winnipeg emergency rooms and shift several services between facilities.
The first round of staffing changes will occur at the Grace, Victoria General and St. Boniface General hospitals, as well as Misericordia Health Centre. The WRHA stopped short of offering job guarantees Tuesday but vowed to minimize staff disruptions.
The authority said staff will begin selecting jobs Sept. 25, a process that needs to wrap up before the full impact on jobs may be known.
Karlee Blatz, senior labour relations counsel for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, noted there are more than 100 vacancies for health-care aides in the region and other possible home-care jobs those staff could fill.
“We continue to be confident that there’s opportunities for people,” said Blatz.
Blatz noted some staff may actually choose a layoff, though, and others may temporarily lose positions during renovations at Victoria hospital.
“At Victoria, their future state is not really seen until the mental health renovations are completed … We’re adding staff again at that time,” said Blatz.
But unions say new schedules provided to workers show job cuts are coming.
“At Health Sciences Centre, there’s over 100 positions that are gone,” said Shannon McAteer, a health-care co-ordinator with the Canadian Union of Public Employees. “These are front-line positions. And there’s another 100 that were full time that are no longer going to be full time.”
The WRHA said the HSC estimate is premature since that hospital isn’t affected by the initial phase of consolidation. The authority said it’s also too soon to tell what hours staff will be left with.
The Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union, meanwhile, expects 40 job losses. While the WRHA says those staff could work elsewhere in the region, MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky said no such assurances have been offered.
Another union fears new schedules that prevent staff from exclusively working day shifts could also force some workers to quit.
“Some folks are not going to be able to work the jobs they’re being offered … People with child-care concerns or a spouse that works a regular shift are all going to be impacted,” said Jeff Traeger, president of United Food & Commercial Workers Canada Local 832.
Blatz, however, said the rotation change should improve care and reduce overtime.
“It’s very hard to fill straight evenings or straight nights positions when they become vacant, so they’re often filled with additional shifts and overtime. (This) is not great for patients because you have new staff coming in all the time,” she said.
Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen’s office said he was in meetings Tuesday and couldn’t be reached for comment.