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The province of Manitoba wants to cut the number of bargaining units in the healthcare system from 180 to less than 50. 

 Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen said today the Health Sector Bargaining Unit Review Act will streamline labour negotiations in the health system and bring Manitoba up to speed with other provinces. 

"If you take the bargaining units for other provinces in Western Canada and combine them and times them by five I think it's still less than what we have in Manitoba," Goertzen said. "All of these different bargaining units have different agreements and when you're operating in the same hospital, trying to organize staff and have shifts and determine what one nurse can do and what another nurse cannot do, it's difficult to manage a system that way." 

Goertzen said Saskatchewan only has 14 bargaining units, and B.C. only has five. 

The province says it will divide staff from every health region into seven units, including nurses, physicians, medical residents, physician assistants and clinical assistants, professional/technical/paramedical, facility support and community support. 

Those members of each unit will then get to vote for the union they want to represent them. Although some critics say decreasing the bargaining units will take away employee's right to the representation they want, Goertzen argues they will still have the same rights as before. 

"I believe that is being protected," Goertzen said. "Individual workers will be able to choose through that secret ballot process which union will represent them." 

Goertzen says he doesn't expect them to drop to less than 50 bargaining units right away but hopes the proccess will go quickly. The province says union officials were notified of this Act prior to it being introduced in the Legisltature. 

The province also announced today that Robert Pruden has been appointed commissioner to oversee the implementation of the new system. Pruden's responsibilities will include determining the composition of each existing bargaining unit, conducting the secret ballot vote and designating the receiving collective agreement that will form the basis of negotiations within each bargaining unit. 

Pruden previously served as Manitoba director of labour relations and chief negotiator for 16 years, and for the past 14 years he has worked in labour relations in the private sector.