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Most of Manitobas 8,500 health care workers have voted to accept a new three-year contract that improves wages and benefits and increases full-time jobs.

The CUPE members voted June 23 in province-wide ratification votes. The majority of members at 20 of the 24 locals voted yes, with the total yes vote just under 75 per cent. For the four locals that rejected the deal, talks will resume to try and resolve local issues.

Weve definitely made some progress in this contract and most of our members recognize that, said Maryann Wasylnuk, Chair of CUPEs Provincial Health Care Council. But members are also clear that well be going after the missing pieces of the puzzle in the next round of bargaining.

After more than seven months of negotiations, the government was forced in mediation to respond to some of the unions key demands, including uniform rates across the province, more full-time jobs, improved seniority provisions, significant increases in evening and weekend shift pay and a 7 per cent wage increase.

We achieved things wed never have gotten without the dual pressure of a strong strike vote and outside mediation, said Wasylnuk. We moved the government much further towards a fair settlement than their original offer. It was a tough haul. I dont think its far off the mark to say it was like getting blood from a stone.

The government has agreed to work with the union to convert casual and part-time jobs into full-time jobs and has committed

$1.7 million to help achieve wage parity across the province.

More full-time jobs means full-time care for patients and residents. Thats good news. But make no mistake: health cares still in bad shape. And dont think for a second weve forgotten whos responsible Gary Filmon and the Tories, said Wasylnuk.

Were not going away. As soon as the dust settles, well be reminding voters of the Filmon governments abysmal record on health care, and organizing to defeat them in the upcoming election, she concluded.