Message from the President: Provincial 'Risk Recognition Program' Update

Publish date: Friday, May 22, 2020

COVID-19

Health and safety

MNU members

MNU President

Dear members,

I wanted to update you on the status of the so-called “Risk Recognition Program” announced last week. MNU and other stakeholders have been invited by the Finance Minister to meetings to discuss the initiative. MNU has participated in this process.

It’s important to understand that although three quarters of the $120 million fund has been provided by the federal government, the Pallister government is responsible for determining how the funds are to be distributed. Ottawa has deferred eligibility criteria to the provinces, which means program implementation will vary across the country.

The Pallister government has indicated the fund will be administered as a one-time, lump-sum payment. However, they have not provided clarity on the overall purpose of the fund. Specifically, the government has not yet determined if the fund is intended to recognize all frontline workers for their service, or if it’s intended to be a wage subsidy to top up low-income essential workers. 

At this time it is unclear if nurses will be recognized as part of this program.

Throughout the pandemic, MNU has been advocating for the government to recognize nurses. In early April, MNU and other unions proposed a COVID premium to government that would act as an hourly top-up for all frontline health care workers. We believe an hourly increase is the fairest way to reward frontline staff. Unfortunately, the government has refused to respond to our proposal.

We continue to call for nurses to be recognized, either through this new fund or a separate initiative. At the same time, we don’t believe it should be presented as a choice between deserving workers. All frontline workers deserve to be recognized for their contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic response.

Regrettably, the Pallister government has made this situation worse by refusing to bargain a new contract with nurses for over three years, while freezing their wages for nearly four. Nurses in this province haven’t been treated fairly since this government was elected, and that needs to change.

That’s why we’ve been clear that nurses, and all frontline workers are deserving of recognition, either through this federally-sponsored program or through a separate provincial initiative. Other provinces including Ontario, Quebec, and BC have taken steps to offer nurses and other frontline healthcare workers hourly wage top-ups. They have shown that governments can administer different funds targeting different groups of deserving workers. There’s no reason why the Pallister government could not take this approach as well. And while a one-time payment is absolutely not a substitute for a new contract and a fair wage increase, it would certainly be a welcome token of recognition.

At the end of the day, the Pallister government has the power to decide if nurses will be recognized. Rest assured MNU has been advocating forcefully for nurses and their patients throughout the pandemic, and we will continue to do that every step of the way.

Thank you for your continued efforts and support during this extraordinary time.

In solidarity,

Darlene Jackson
President
Manitoba Nurses Union

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