Over a year ago, the provincial government introduced two major pieces of legislation. The first was Bill 28 – The Public Services Sustainability Act, which proposed to freeze the wages and pay rates of all public sector workers and physicians. The other was Bill 29 – The Health Sector Bargaining Unit Act, which proposed to reduce the number of bargaining units in the health care field through votes or mandatory amalgamations.
Shortly after, the provincial government and the WRHA embarked upon major health care restructuring including the closure or conversion of emergency departments, urgent care centres and intensive care units.
So, where are we now?
The Public Services Sustainability Act (Bill 28), while approved by the Legislature, has not yet been proclaimed, meaning that legally it is of no force and effect. That said, it has sent a chill across public sector bargaining in part because it could be proclaimed by provincial cabinet at any time.
Upon proclamation, the law would impose a ‘sustainability period’ upon physicians beginning at the expiration of the current Master Agreement (March 31, 2019). It would freeze all rates and fees for two years followed by maximum increases of 0.75% and 1.0%, respectively. These figures would apply as well to all our negotiated benefit programs such as CME and Mat/Par Leave.
Doctors Manitoba fought against Bill 28 when proposed and continues to oppose it. We do not favour any government law that negates good-faith bargaining and neuters our independent arbitration process.
The Health Sector Bargaining Unit Act (Bill 29) became law on May 9, 2018. Under the new law, the government has appointed Commissioner Robert Pruden to implement the legislative requirements. We have already met with Mr. Pruden to ensure a little disruption to physicians as possible.
Doctors Manitoba has over 250 members who are impacted by this law because they are covered by a Doctors Manitoba bargaining unit under The Labour Relations Act.
Doctors Manitoba has been busy studying the law and communicating with the physicians who are affected. The law is designed not to change any substantive contractual rights but rather to amalgamate groups of physicians and decrease the total number of contracts.
If you have any questions about this law and how it applies to you, if at all, please contact Doctors Manitoba.