Media Statement: MNU Responds to ‘Risk Recognition’ Announcement

MNU President Darlene Jackson issued the following media statement in response to the Pallister government’s Risk Recognition Program announcement.

“Despite what the Pallister government announced, the fact is the vast majority of Manitoba’s nurses are not included in the Risk Recognition Program. Nurses are listed as eligible, however the income thresholds set by government exclude nurses. Only a small number of LPNs will be eligible under their criteria, and only if they work significantly less than full time. All RNs, RPNs, NPs and all full-time nurses will be completely shut out.

From the outset, the Pallister government refused to define the purpose of the fund. After they were unable to reach consensus through meetings, the Pallister government essentially asked MNU and other stakeholders to vote on which groups of workers should be included. Pitting nurses against retail workers, truck drivers, and lower income workers in the midst of a pandemic is simply wrong. As caregivers and advocates, nurses would never want to be put in a position of taking away money from low-income frontline workers. We believe all frontline workers are deserving of
recognition and respect.

MNU engaged in the consultations, and offered clear, extensive feedback. We found the government to be unreceptive to our advice, and the process to be entirely inappropriate, and as a result, when it came to a vote, we refused to participate. No other province has put the administration of these federal dollars to a vote. Many other provincial governments, including BC, Ontario and Quebec, have offered reasonable hourly top-ups to nurses and other health care workers, and that’s exactly what MNU called for, as the fairest and most equitable means of acknowledging the
additional challenges nurses are facing. We first made this proposal to government with other health care unions over a month ago, and we raised it multiple times throughout this process. We also noted our objection to the term ‘Risk Recognition’ which implies nurses can be bought out for taking on added risk, and asked for a simple name change.

Unfortunately, the Pallister government refused to accept any of our key recommendations. Instead, they determined that they would employ a one-time payment with arbitrary thresholds that inevitably create exclusions and conflict. It’s entirely the wrong approach and we repeatedly warned against it. Unfortunately, to add insult to injury, they decided to exclude the vast majority of nurses while claiming otherwise. We won’t stand for this deception and we are asking government to issue clarification on eligibility immediately.

MNU believes nurses are deserving of recognition. Nurses in Manitoba have gone without a contract for three years, and a pay raise for four because the Pallister government refused to bargain and effectively froze their wages. Nurses were already feeling undervalued, and now the rollout of this plan will only add insult to injury. If this government was serious about recognizing nurses, they would have bargained a fair contract a long time ago, and listened to our reasonable proposals.