"These people had a collective agreement in place that was ignored. They weren’t provided with proper notice. They weren't even able to remove all of their personal effects from the workplace." — Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU President
Winnipeg (10 July 2019) — The Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU/NUPGE) filed a group grievance on behalf of Civil Service members who worked in the LifeFlight Air Ambulance program and were recently laid-off without proper notice.
Government tramples workers' rights and their jobs
The Civil Service collective agreement provides for 40 days notice on lay-off of senior employees. According to Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU President, this did not happen in the case of the LifeFlight members who were laid off on June 26, when the government shuttered the program which has served Manitobans for over 34 years.
“It’s a pretty clear violation of the collective agreement and shows a complete lack of respect,” says Gawronsky, who also noted that the laid off employees also had their benefits and pensions terminated immediately.
“If you had tried to find a more callous way to lay-off hard-working employees, I don’t think you could. These people had a collective agreement in place that was ignored. They weren’t provided with proper notice. They weren't even able to remove all of their personal effects from the workplace," Gawronsky says.
Government privatizes air ambulance services
For months, the government has pursued privatizing the LifeFlight program despite vocal opposition from the MGEU/NUPGE and health care professionals, including the doctors who fly on the planes. On June 6, the government announced its intention to privatize the service, but did not provide a lay-off notice in writing or say when the changeover would occur.
The program provided rapid inter-facility air ambulance transport for critically ill or injured Manitobans from areas outside a 200 kilometre radius of Winnipeg and was vital to rural and remote Northern communities where ground ambulances can’t reach patients. LifeFlight had many advantages — including, highly experienced staff and a clean safety record with no serious incidents, injuries, and or fatalities.
Patients' health at risk
An earlier media report shows that the province is now having problems finding nurses and doctors to staff air transports, as doctors refuse to board the private planes due to serious safety concerns.
“The government has put the system in chaos and it’s completely of their own creation. This was an excellent public service with an impeccable safety record and they’ve turned it all upside down because of ideology, because they would prefer to see a corporation profit from this service. It’s that simple,” said Gawronsky.
In addition to the group grievance, the union has also filed 4 individual member grievances as a result of the LifeFlight lay-offs.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE