President’s message

President’s Message: Cutting Sask Jobs & Services

Typically, we await the provincial budget with reservations about how it will affect our families, communities and the services we provide daily in our workplace to our patients, clients, residents and students. We hope for the best and we think that we prepare for the worst.

The Sask Party budget 2017 was anything but typical. Good jobs have been slashed (over 500 provincially) – through the loss of health care programs, the loss of the STC bus line service and with the privatization of government cleaning contracts. Further to that, we are anticipating deep cuts within the education sector and across all health regions. And we all know that fewer good jobs will not build a strong local economy.

Now we can see what Transformational Change will bring in the form of one provincial health region (PHR) as government has dictated an end to the hearing aid program, the parent mentoring program, podiatry services, pastoral care services and the travel immunization clinic. This will result in MORE layoffs in health care across the province. Seniors have been hit real hard; while we cannot get a guarantee for safe staffing levels in long term care (LTC), about 50% of our LTC residents will pay well more for their care. Immunizations currently done in travel clinics will be done in the private sector and likely at a much higher cost (same as private for-profit MRIs) yet the risk associated with not having same does create another cost burden to our health care system and this has likely not been considered. We all see these short-sighted cuts to service as a fundamental shift in thinking; government wants to change our expectations of what medicare should be, into something much lesser.

In our education sector, this budget has already triggered meetings with members in the Chinook School Division that will see cuts in maintenance, and quite likely in the classifications of Education Assistants, Library Assistants, and Administrative Assistants. While we appreciate the role of teachers in the classroom, their role is only one part of the education team. Without maintenance staff, we lose valuable staff with expertise to keep the heat and lights on in our schools. These costs will actually increase without in-house expertise because schools will now rely on outside contractors who will charge more and work on their own timetable.

While the Sask Party has relented on the move to collapse school divisions, they have cut the overall education budget by 6.7%. It is undeniable that this will be felt in the classrooms. At the same time, the Sask Party has cut public library funding and reduced funding to the Universities by 5%. We appreciate that investment in education for the benefit of future generations results in our best overall return for a bright future, so why doesn’t our government see the damaging effects of these decisions?

In terms of offloading, the Sask Party government has shown some real gall. Fewer dollars will go to municipalities, towns and cities so taxes will be going up in many communities. In our community-based sector, we already have capacity, retention & recruitment issues. Provincial funding reductions will be realized where funding comes out of health, justice, labour market development or child and family community services. We are shifting away from providing need services for the most vulnerable in our society, while at the same time, reducing corporate tax rates for more wealthy businesses and individuals.

Last but not least, the Sask Party budget continues with a streak of ‘stubborn tenacity’ to increase corporate tax breaks and AT THE SAME time, they have increased consumption taxes and removed exemptions on children’s clothes, insurance, certain foods. So in terms of fair choices – these do not have any appeal in Budget 2017.

How will this roll out? At SEIU-West, we know that budget 2017 was just a day (March 22, 2017); however, this day marked a shift in how our government views us and our communities. Premier Wall said that ‘everything is on the table’ to be reviewed for cuts – but that is not what he did; instead, he determined winners and losers and did not show true leadership in sharing this budget crisis across all areas. We do not share this view and we will do our best to continue to build solidarity among our membership and across our sectors and within our labour movement so as to share our collective objection to these decisions. We want to build a strong economy for working people across Saskatchewan and we will continue to offer up solutions that can get us there.

For a pdf of this message, click here.

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President’s Message: True Solidarity

Life moves pretty fast and we have so many changes coming at us: in our communities, our province, with our families and definitely within our union.

We are reaching out to our members, allies, and partners and yes, to employers every day, to keep a close eye on what is happening. Whether it’s the regular work of meetings, grievances, negotiations and workplace safety – or bigger changes that have the potential to affect all of us in both the public and private sectors.

This is an opportunity to dig deep to find the meaning of true solidarity and support one another. We had that rare opportunity on March 8, International Women’s Day (IWD). While offering a moment to recognize the incredible women who have made us, shaped us or guided us, IWD marked an incredible event within the Saskatchewan labour movement. By now, most of you will have seen or heard reports of the Rally for Saskatchewan (#Rally4SK) held at the Legislature in Regina. This was an event for public sector workers and those who support those public services to stand together in a show of strength for the building and protection of those services.

Public services are under threat now like never before. Whether it’s the threatened partial sell-off of SaskTel, or a massive (and ballooning) deficit of $1.2 billion dollars, or ‘invitations’ to all those within the public sector to join the government in finding wage reductions of 3.5%, or musings about layoffs and service cuts, we need to recognize that the services we enjoy from the Crowns, or health care, or education should not be taken for granted. We need to stand up to stop these things from disappearing from our communities and our province.

We pay for these services through our current taxation… so we should be able to access them when needed. But if we start starving them of funding or sell off those Crowns that generate revenue, our taxes won’t go down… we’ll simply pay more in the form of user fees. I know that the wait lists for health care services are not ideal; but shouldn’t we be looking at investing in those services to improve them, rather than privatize or reduce overall access?

This deficit is a crisis, however it has not been created by public sector workers. There’s an old saying “never let a good crisis go to waste.” Sadly, our government is using the excuse of a financial deficit to sell us on the idea that we have no choice but to make big changes. Transformational change will not be temporary in nature (until oil, gas and potash revenues bounce back). The contemplated changes are something different, something bigger and certainly more permanent in nature; they will weaken or eliminate our public services in a fundamental way forever. These changes are about teaching people to expect less from our provincial government and the public services they provide. The government wants us to start thinking that “it’s not the government’s job to ensure that everyone has access to quality health care, quality education or quality public services… that’s between you and the private sector.”

But in Saskatchewan, our public services are the heart and soul of this province. It’s in our DNA to support and share in both the gain and the pain. And that’s what public services allow us to do: we all pay a little so no one has to pay a lot. In the American systems, it’s up to the individual to pay a lot – depending on what a public provider charges. And if they don’t offer the services in your small town or community, well, that is too bad – it’s not the government’s fault.

These musings about public policy and fundamental shifts in how we operate our province are a knee-jerk reaction to their crafted deficit. This is bad, don’t get me wrong, but surely we should pause in a moment of crisis like this, and develop a comprehensive plan to dig ourselves out of the hole? This should be the time that we all band together – workers, unions, employers; public and private sector; government and opposition – to make a plan for our future. This deficit didn’t happen overnight and we shouldn’t expect it to be fixed overnight or over the course of one year. Saskatchewan people know the boom/bust cycle. We also know the true test of good government is how you manage the bad times.

Education Sector – Transformational Change:

We continue to await the report of the advisory panel on the future of the public school boards. The province is contemplating a series of options provided by Dan Perrins, which includes the elimination of elected school boards (appointed by government instead) and creating one provincial public school division for the whole province.

We are not in favour of these options and instead have suggested that the status quo provides more local input and control over our kids’ education. We believe that elected school boards are more appropriate because democracy flourishes at the grass roots level. (Ironically, the current Minister of Education, Don Morgan, began his political career as an elected school board member in Saskatoon!) We also believe that parents having knowledge, input and participation at the local level provides for engaged families and communities.

Healthcare – Transformational Change:

  • The consolidation of IT services under eHealth is continuing. What exactly that means is unclear. When we have inquired, we were told that current processes between eHealth and the health regions will continue. Given that we are not entirely sure what that means, we have pursued setting up a meeting with the health system transition team and eHealth to get some answers for our members. The Transition Team has added another member, Denise Junek, who is responsible for IT/Information Management changes.
  • We are pursuing the idea of a formal bargaining council with our coalition partners, SGEU and CUPE. We’ve talked with many of you about this as a potential and there is commitment to this idea as a way to stabilize the health care workforce and also continue to build on our coalition bargaining. We’ve received a number of presentations from groups who have built this model from all across the country and the feedback is quite positive.
  • The updates from the Transition Team are not exactly chock full of information…and that’s why we are working to set up regular meetings with the team or a part of the team. We know our members expect us to not only bargain good agreements, but be vocal advocates for our members and the services they provide. And that’s what we intend to do.

Stay in touch with your union: watch the website – write us with your questions. Sign up for email updates; follow us on Facebook…we will do our best to be where you are. Because we need you to walk that path of solidarity with us.

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President’s Message: Stand Up Fight Back!

Since our last update on Transformational Change, we’ve had the opportunity to continue to meet with and talk with members across the province. From Swift Current to Maple Creek, Wynyard to Saskatoon, and points in between, we’ve been coming to your workplaces, learning about your concerns and sharing these with the public, with the Ministry of Health and each other.

It seems like we have had a weekly, sometimes daily, deluge of announcements, public statements, threats, and musings about what the future holds for both the health care and education sector. The latest statement from our Premier is that the deficit is $1.2 billion (with a ‘b’) and again, “everything is on the table”, including the threat to cut 4900 jobs in health care, layoff staff in education and cut services to our vulnerable populations…and strangely, this speech received a standing ovation from the delegates to the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association annual convention..?! Following this the Premier and Minister of Finance have mused publicly about public sector employees being forced to take unpaid days off. We all know that this won’t work operationally – the chronic shortage of staffing in so many of our workplaces poses an obstacle for those who want to access their vacation, so how would they get added days off? It is truly regrettable that our politicians can’t inform themselves and it’s not like we haven’t told them about the unsafe staffing levels that prevail in the sector!

But what do we know and what is being floated out as a trial balloon? We know that IT services are already being shifted under a centralized body – managed by eHealth. But what we do NOT know is what this means for our members: this looks a lot like a reorganization of work and clearly we have collective agreement language that must be followed, so grievances have been filed in both SHR and FHHR. We’ve asked what this would mean for our members: Who is the boss? Who do they request time off from? Who manages the work? How do we collaborate between RHA’s and eHealth? The reply from eHealth confirms only that they don’t have those answers but they are looking at developing working groups in the future. Well that’s nice, but why move staff if you don’t have a plan? Why risk the cost of grievances and cause stress in the workplace if you do not have a plan? Hmm, suddenly the problem comes into focus! Where’s the Plan?!

There are a lot of rumours in our workplaces and departments about what will happen to our jobs, our union and our seniority. I’ve told many people that SEIU-West, along with CUPE and SGEU are pursuing the plan to implement a formal bargaining council involving all three unions. We believe that this will provide our members with stability and ease some of the anxiety that is related to this monumental change. We understand that this is not an easy time for our members and we want to alleviate some of that stress and pressure related to the lack of a plan regarding labour relations – and we believe that this is the best way to do this.

Other questions have been asked about layoffs and bumping as a result of preparing for the mega region…we do not know what this may look like – we do know what our collective agreements say. Lots of people act like they have the inside scoop on this, but until we receive a formal plan that follows the Collective Agreement, that inside scoop is just so much fertilizer. If and when we receive some form of proper notice, we will share that directly with our members who are affected and then all members – that is fair and transparent and our members deserve no less.

What I find so encouraging and uplifting is that so many of you are coming to talk with us, share your thoughts and feelings and wanting to be involved and get (and share) information with your co-workers. That is brilliant! We are in this together, we are supporting each other and we understand the impact and pressure all of us are facing. The only way to win is to stand together and support one another…that is the very core and strength of a union.

The pressure is on for all public sector workers: the Crown corporations are being threatened with sale to private companies; the education sector is being threatened with their own form of transformational change and the potential of a province-wide school division – and layoffs of front-line education staff; and our health care system continues to be under constant attack with cuts and rollbacks! And don’t think the timing of this isn’t coordinated with our largest round of public sector bargaining in the health care system!

There is an opportunity to stand up against cuts, rollbacks and reductions and we can do this together with all union members from across the province. On March 8, let’s stand together on the steps of the Legislature and fight back to show our government that intimidation, threats and bully tactics do not scare us and we will never back down in our collective fight to save our crowns, save our public health care services and save our public education system.

Union members from across the province will stand together, support each other and get to Regina from Swift Current, from Prince Albert, from Davidson, from Saskatoon, from Estevan and all points in-between…in our rally to save our public services. Sign up to get on the bus with SEIU-West. Bring your family and friends and be able to say I WAS THERE AND I STOOD UP FOR SASKATCHEWAN.

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President’s Message: What Does Transformational Change Mean to Us?

These last few days (weeks) have been pretty busy for people in the public sector. With our Premier musing (really?!) about cutbacks, layoffs, rollbacks and re-opening collective agreements, we have seen our Minister of Finance announce this as an economic plan in the press; we have heard rumblings of the same in the health sector; and received a copy of the Minister of Education’s announcement to the school divisions. On top of this, there has been an announcement of a deal between the federal and provincial government about increased funding for home care and mental health services.

And our members have not disappointed: through calls, emails, texts, and messages to the MRC, they have raised their concerns about what this means for them, their families and their communities. Their concerns have been about the public services we provide and how they might be impacted. And their concerns have been around the state of bargaining, whether it’s in health care or education.

So here’s what we know:

  • Prior to Christmas, we held meetings at most of our units to discuss our assessment of the impact of transformational change news coming from our provincial government. We called these “listening cafes” so that we could hear from our membership – what are their fears, their strengths, what issues are live and real within their communities and how are we doing generally. These sessions have been of great value to our union and our members because we were able to share everything that we have been hearing.
  • During the recent 2016 year end interview, Premier Brad Wall began his ‘musing’ about wage rollbacks and layoffs in the public sector. SEIU-West responded with this media release: Wall’s Musings Don’t Address Budget Shortfall. It was sent out to all media outlets and faxed out to each of our units so hopefully you would see this on your union bulletin board. Alternatively, you can also check (routinely) our website or the Facebook page. I was contacted by media outlets for interviews and at the end of this message, there are a number of links to articles that you can read and share. While I am sure that you know that the media don’t always report our message with the words we would use, they do seem to understand that SEIU-West was outraged by the content of the Premier’s message and his manner of communicating it.
  • Since this time, we have learned about the government’s decision to move to one large provincial health region. SEIU-West has responded to this message with another media release: One Region to Rule Them All and sent a mass email to all of our members who have provided their email to us for communication of priority items. This mass email provides a link for members (and others) to submit a letter to our Health Minister Jim Reiter. We have a serious sense of mistrust that our government is taking us all down a path that will lead to more layoffs, increased cuts to funding, together with forced rollbacks and will inevitably lead to the deterioration of our health care services.
  • On January 17th, in response to the Minister of Finance’s austerity announcement, we provided yet another media release: New Federal Money Welcome but Won’t Fix short-Sighted Plans and I have continued to take the position that our government is not accepting their responsibility for our grim financial situation. Building strong local economies cannot be managed with an austerity strategy. We need to have good jobs and strong public services. Not only have I have been doing a lot of media calls recently, I have been busy answering our members’ calls and emails to address their concerns.
  • SEIU-West has been actively participating in the consultation processes and setting out our concerns in a brief (on both education and health care). We have also been meeting with the Minister of Education and the Ministry of Health in order to raise issues with this tactic and set out solutions that our members have provided to us. There doesn’t appear to be an actual ‘plan’ for how these changes are being rolled out which is a huge concern because of the amount of anxiety that it levels on our members’ shoulders.

Finally, in respect to bargaining issues. We have struck bargaining committees for our health sector (SAHO and Extendicare) and for our education sector (SE Cornerstone and Holy Family SD) and we do have pages on the website for bargaining updates. SEIU-West has been meeting with the other health provider unions to discuss our coalition bargaining issues/strategy and we have reached out to both CUPE and the SK Teachers Federation to talk about the impending changes in the education sector. We will provide updates and we will, of course, continue to have meetings in all of our units. If you would like to be added to the email distribution list for SEIU-West updates, let me know and we’ll get you added to the list.

I hope that this answers your many questions. Please know that I am eager to continue dialogue with you and I am inspired by your engagement with SEIU-West on these very important issues. I urge you to get on our BSD (mass email list) so as to stay up to date and I am grateful that our members share the perspective of so many other valued public service workers. Should you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to contact us and stay in touch.

Recent News Articles:
http://www.620ckrm.com/2017/01/18/healthcare-union-not-impressed-with-new-health-deal-struck-by-saskatchewan-government/
http://mjtimes.sk.ca/news/2017/01/18/union-expresses-concern-federal-provincial-health-funding-agreement/
http://www.thestarphoenix.com/unions+employers+react+government+wage+rollback+directive/12726254/story.html
http://saskatoon.ctvnews.ca/unions-opposition-say-mental-health-home-care-funding-needed-1.3245496
http://www.thecanadianpress.com/english/online/OnlineFullStory.aspx?filename=DOR-MNN-CP.5903564a54684b38b86dd12c8febf415.CPKEY2008111310&newsitemid=40111952&languageid=1
http://globalnews.ca/news/3163642/gauging-reaction-to-saskatchewans-move-to-a-single-health-authority/
https://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/seiu-west-says-premier-discuss-214433907.html
http://www.canadianbusiness.com/business-news/union-pans-walls-idea-of-wage-cuts-layoffs-to-deal-with-saskatchewan-deficit/
http://cjme.com/article/1062634/sask-govt-unions-bristling-about-possible-cuts
http://www.sasknow.ca/local-news/78727-seiu-unhappy-premier-considering-layoffs

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PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE: Transformational Change and One Mega Health Region

On January 4, 2017, our provincial government announced the results of the transformational change advisory panel for health care, and it’s monumental.

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The panel was given a mandate to reduce the number of health regions, from our current 12. And that is what they delivered: their recommendation is to reduce the health regions to one province-wide health authority. Further to that, under a provincial health authority, there will be 4-6 regional ‘service integration areas’. We do not have any clear understanding of what this means nor have we received any answers to our questions from the Ministry of Health at this point.

A second recommendation is to consolidate clinical services such as Lab/Diagnostic, Information Technology (IT), as well as non clinical services such as Payroll/Finance, Human Resources/Labour Relations and Supply Chain. The report recommended the governance structures of E-Health, SAHO, 3sHealth and the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency be reviewed, to ensure they meet the goals of the Provincial Region, but suggested a review timeframe of a couple of years. However, it strikes me that if there is a desire on the part of government to save money within the health care system, then those are the very bureaucracies that should be a part of a review right now.

The third and fourth recommendations are to measure quality indicators and performance management of the health system via the Health Quality Council (HQC); and review current legislation to establish the new provincial health authority and board of directors.

There are so many questions that our members have already begun asking… and we have put many of these same questions to the Ministry of Health such as:

Our Question

Ministry of Health’s Answer

How much money will this save? Did the government do a cost-benefit analysis?

Nothing they will share, but this process isn’t about saving money, it’s focused on improving patient care

What is a ‘service integration area’?

No clear answer provided, but it’s not a “mini region”

What is the impact on our members’ positions and functions?

No clear answer provided, leave that up to the “experts”

Does the government already have draft legislation prepared?

No clear answer provided, nothing they will share

Has the government given directions to the health regions about how to communicate this announcement to their workers?

Health Regions are to communicate this announcement individually, using a ministry standard script

What will this mean for labour relations and union representation?

Good question, don’t know, too soon to say

How will this affect the upcoming round of health sector bargaining?

Good question, don’t know, too soon to say

As you can see, we do not have any solid answers from the Ministry of Health that would help our members plan for the impact of this change.

This is such a true shift in how health care is delivered, that I don’t think even our government or RHA’s really know what this will look like.

As we all know, there are hundreds of moving parts in our health system. It’s not just one department or service or facility or health region that keeps health care in the province moving forward… it’s each and every person who contributes to the patient, client or resident’s health and well-being.

So after reading through the recommendations and receiving a debrief from the Ministry of Health, do we have confidence in this direction? Sadly, no. Do I think a quality structure and transition plan that adequately addresses the legislative, legal, financial and labour relations impacts will be ready to roll out by fall of 2017? I really don’t know how it will be possible.

If the government is truly dedicated to improved patient care, I’m not sure how this timeline will allow proper consultation with those who provide hands on health care services. This timeline seems unrealistic.

I think this decision is shortsighted because it lacks the solid recognition of the changes that our provincial health system has been through since 1997. Saskatchewan is ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to establishing community health care service delivery in a regionalized model where a local voice remains relevant. The one province-wide health authority plan does not contemplate a clear recognition or role for our rural and remote communities. The lack of those voices will most definitely cause a negative impact in their health care service delivery.

We all know that there is a desire for change by government to address their budget shortfall, therefore we are wary of cuts to service through this process.

After a week where our Premier is ‘musing’ about layoffs and rollbacks and ask us for good faith and goodwill – this report doesn’t provide the basis for trust building or for assurance of clear answers or transparency in the grand plan for health care in the province of Saskatchewan.

We are demanding more answers to many of the same questions you have shared with us. But we want to make sure that your questions are addressed by the Ministry of Health. Do not hesitate to contact the Member Resource Center (MRC) at 1-888-999-7348 ext. 2298 or through the contact us form or email me directly at barb.cape@seiuwest.ca.

Related Links:

Transformational Change Page -What We Know

SEIU-West Media Release – One Health Region To Rule Them All

Saskatchewan Advisory Panel on Health System Structure Report

 

 

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PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE: Dismal Provincial Budget Update

On November 22, 2016, the Minister of Finance provided his mid-year financial update for 2016-2017 fiscal year ending March 31, 2017 and let me tell you – it doesn’t look very good. This province is facing a $1 billion deficit; or $800 million if you consider that WCB gave a rebate to employers despite our injured worker rate being the 3rd worst (yes, I said ‘worst’) in the country! (Read the Government’s Spending Decision Backgrounder).

So what exactly does that look like in the healthcare sector? Here are the broad strokes:

  • A province-wide hiring freeze, effective immediately, across executive management, out of scope, and in scope unionized staff. However, if there is an essential hiring need, it will need to be approved by the CEO of the health region.
  • A more efficient use of staff based on what is budgeted for “paid hours”. We aren’t entirely sure what the specifics are around this scheme, but we suspect that it will rear its ugly head in the form of a robust non-replacement policy (practice). The health regions are being directed to actively manage the efficient use of casuals. This is in addition to the current mandate from the Ministry of Health for the health regions to reduce the use of overtime and sick time.
  • While the Ministry of Health is projecting $63.9 million in savings on programs, workforce changes, etc. there is still a remaining $88.1 million deficit.
    • Part of that $63.9 million savings includes a proposed contribution holiday for employers from the Extended Health & Dental plan surplus. This has not been agreed to by SEIU-West, however it was added because there are discussions ongoing.
    • The $7.5 million in administrative savings that were going to be applied to front-line workers is now being delayed. The Ministry of Health doesn’t know for how long, but currently, those savings will be used to offset administrative pressures.
  • The status of any business cases being undertaken by 3shealth to centralize any services will still be required to go through the mandated processes. Which is fine, but the question is where does the money come from to fund things like a centralized Supply Chain system? Come to think of it, did 3shealth see a reduction to its budget?
  • We don’t know about further layoffs or potential bed closures.

In the education sector, this is what we know from the update:

  • $5 million in savings is linked to “…staffing restrictions, contractual savings, IT deferrals, travel restraint and other operational savings.” What this means for our Education Assistants, Library Techs, Maintenance/Custodial staff, Admin Assistants, Bus Drivers and others is unclear.
  • There is currently a review of the education sector underway to determine if school board trustees should be democratically elected or appointed by government and whether the government should reduce the number of school divisions and remove local control from the communities they serve. Maybe government is hoping to find more savings there…?

In the community-based sector, the savings of $9.2 million are mostly based on program cuts for the most vulnerable in our communities and administrative savings found within the Ministry of Social Services. And really, I don’t think there is any way to cut the costs to this sector and still claim that our government is providing social programs in this province…!

Things are bleak and looking tough. And while this is a difficult update from government, a number of people have said that next year will be even worse. There are some media reports that the MLA’s are getting a wage freeze next year and so everyone in the public sector should expect 0. Well, I’m up for shared responsibility to some extent, but let’s not kid ourselves: a 0% increase on $22/hour has a greater impact to a front-line worker than a Member of the Legislature not getting an increase when they make a base salary of approximately $92,000/year! And let’s remember, this government increased the number of MLAs to address the growing workload as our population blossomed.

We did this to ourselves: we voted in a government that didn’t come clean on a budget; we voted in a government that has engaged in questionable land deals and not held people accountable via a forensic audit; we voted in a government that has mismanaged a resource boom to the point that we are here: pinching pennies to pay the bills.

While I am not encouraged by the reality of having to share such bad news, of course, I will keep you apprised of any future developments that occur.

Related Links:

Government News Release: Falling Tax Revenue Increases Deficit (Related documents linked at the bottom of the release)

SEIU-West Media Release: Cuts and Guts Do Not Mean Efficiency

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President’s Message: US Election Results

In the aftermath of the US election, many people are feeling overwhelmed and distressed with resulting election of Donald Trump for US President.

I am saddened as well.  I took the opportunity to attend a debrief with our International union the day after the election.  SEIU worked to build coalitions with anti-poverty groups, immigrant justice groups, and faith groups…as so many others did as well.  Our brothers and sisters in the US talked about the post-election feelings as well; its personal and very real for many of them and their families.  So many people asked, ‘What can I say to young workers and children? How do we tell kids that bullying and exclusion are bad behaviors, but that a man who embodies those things was elected?’ and many are wondering if they are going to be deported today.barb

This election pit people against each other based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and income.  There is a very real sense of vulnerability and instability right now as they make this transition.  But further to what is happening in the US, there is also a very real potential for impact here in Canada.  Foreign and domestic policy between our two countries is closely linked; a politician once said that when the US sneezes, Canada gets a cold.  Many of the folks attending the debrief had concern about the sense of mean-ness occurring in the divide between those who supported Trump and those who supported Clinton.  But most remarkably, there was an understanding of the need to reach out to our members, low-income earners, rural communities, immigrants and blue collar workers.

And that is the one thing I will take away from the US Presidential election: the message about how important it is to talk with our members, our families, communities, allies and partners.  We all need to remember that a conversation is a two-way process; it’s not about pretending to listen and figure out what your next point is going to be.  We need to listen and engage with each other to improve all of our lives; and that means hearing what someone is saying instead of just trying to convince them of our own position.

We reach out to new Canadians, young workers, non-union workers, seniors, other union members and our own SEIU-West members. And we do this because together we work to improve our province for everyone.  We do this because we want a welcome and inclusive province. We do this because we can fight for a better minimum wage, we can commit to treating everyone with respect and dignity, we can unite to form unions, we can help improve our economy and we can change our environment…and we can do all of these things together.

This election was divisive.  But it has to be about more than one person who ‘says it like it is’…it has to be about building and growing and accepting all of us, regardless of your skin colour, your gender, where you were born, or who you chose to love.

“I am sore wounded but not slain.  I will lay me down and bleed awhile. And then rise up to fight again.” – John Dryden

 

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President’s Message: Immunization in the Healthcare Workforce

November 9, 2016

As we enter into influenza season, SEIU-West has been actively reaching out to our employers and the Ministry of Health regarding their position on any sort of policy for this year.  Click this link for a message from the Council of CEO’s regarding their position. barb

SEIU-West believes that research has shown that immunization is one of a series of effective measures to ensure your & your families’ health, along with the health of your patients, clients or residents; in conjunction with proper handwashing, good housekeeping practices in facilities and not coming to work sick.  HOWEVER, SEIU-West also believes that our members should have a choice on whether to be immunized or not. Should you encounter difficulty with exercising that choice, please let your unit chair and/or the Member Resource Center know and ask for assistance.

In Solidarity,

Barbara Cape, President SEIU-West

Related Documents:

Council of CEOs – Immunize or Mask Policy Letter 2016

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President’s Message: Meet Your SAHO/Extendicare Bargaining Team!

October 20, 2016

Earlier this year, notifications and applications were posted on www.seiuwest.ca for the SAHO/Extendicare Bargaining Conference and Bargaining Committee. On October 2-3, 2016, roughly 110+ SEIU-West health care members engaged in a highly productive and informative two days. At the Conference, we were also pleased to announce who will make up our SAHO and Extendicare Bargaining Committee teams – and I’m happy to share this information with you now:

  • Celeste Dixon – Extendicare Sunset
  • Tanya Ziffle – Extendicare Elmview
  • Lynette Pinfold – Extendicare Moose Jaw
  • Teresa Roux – Extendicare Preston
  • Rick Brown – SHR
  • Simone Corriveau – SHRbarb
  • Colleen Denniss – HHR
  • Brenda Berry – FHHR
  • Donna Gallant – FHHR
  • Judy Denniss – SHR
  • Kim Wyatt – SHR
  • Kim Deitner – SHR
  • Janice Platzke – CHR/SEIU-West Treasurer
  • Russel Doell – Deputy Director, Collective Bargaining and Enforcement (Staff)
  • Kerry Barrett – Negotiations Officer (Staff)
  • Bob Laurie – Director, Collective Bargaining and Enforcement (Staff)
  • Barb Cape – SEIU-West President

The time commitment for the SAHO/Extendicare Bargaining Committee is substantial, and I want to thank each and every single committee member who agreed to taking on such a large undertaking – it certainly was a hard decision to make!

I believe that this group of members, leaders and staff is truly committed to ensuring the best possible collective agreement for all SAHO and Extendicare members – I look forward to working with this great team!

In the meantime, we ask that all our health care members engage in current government initiatives that will affect our public health care system.

Transformational Change in Health Care:

Our provincial government has set out on a path of “Transformational Change” in our Saskatchewan health care system, yet it is riddled with mystery.

“Transformational Change” within health care in Saskatchewan must be questioned and explained – why the lack of clear definitions? Why is there not meaningful consultation? Why is the mandate solely to reduce the number of Regional Health Authorities? Has my government considered other means to ensure efficiency in quality health care?

Members of the public and frontline health care workers deserve transparency – we urge you to send a letter questioning the purpose of health care reform:

Click “Participate” to send a letter through our campaign page to the Minister of Health Jim Reiter!

In Solidarity,

Barb Cape

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President’s Message: SHR’s Latest Financial Announcement

July 27, 2016 Since last year we have been hearing that Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) is facing a budget crisis and must find savings in its operations. There has been much uncertainty as to how this will be accomplished. The main responsibility for all this uncertainty, which has caused so many of you so much anxiety in recent months, lies with the Saskatchewan government. SHR, the province’s largest health region and the site of its largest tertiary care facility, depends on the Health Ministry for more than 90% of its operating budget. barbThe provincial government has recently been musing about the need for “transformational change” in our health care system. It has been giving mixed and very vague messages about what this means. The one direction the government has announced, perhaps in part because of its failure to plan for a rapidly growing population and the end of the resource boom, that health regions must find 40 million dollars in savings in this budget year. As a result, both health regions and health care providers are finding it very hard to plan and maintain a long term focus on what matters most: providing quality health services in a safe and efficient way. Today SHR announced its latest immediate plan to deal with its budget deficit. As explained to us by SHR management, the plan has two main parts:

  1. An external hiring freeze. From now until the end of September there will be no hiring “off the street” for in-scope positions. However, vacant in-scope positions will still be posted internally, and the freeze will not apply to “hard to recruit” jobs such as technologists, therapists, RNs, cooks, and rural-based CCAs and LPNs. Apparently, the external hiring freeze has existed for Out-of-scope positons for some time now.
  2. A “voluntary separation” plan for Out-of-scope staff. OOS folks will be able to apply to voluntarily resign their job and receive up 2 weeks severance pay for every year of service up to a maximum of 20 weeks.

In a meeting with SEIU-West leadership yesterday SHR management outlined the plan and responded to our questions and concerns. However, we still know much less about it than we would like. For example:

  • How will this hiring freeze affect our members? Management told us that one of the main goals of the freeze is to make more work available for current staff, in order to improve retention. Making more work available to other-than-full-time LPNs, CCAs, Unit Clerks, or Medical Office Assistants, for instance, means they don’t have to quit the region to make more income. Or work multiple part-time and casual jobs to make up full-time work. SHR management said they would be open to discussing the idea of a voluntary separation plan for in-scope workers.
  • How will it impact patient/resident/client care? Management insisted that all of their efforts over the past few months to address their budget issues, including the latest plan, have been designed to avoid cutting frontline care staff. SEIU-West reiterated the importance our members place on being able to provide quality care to their patients/clients/residents.
  • How much money will it save? SHR’s media release states that they hope to save $34 million from all of their “Sustainability Plan Initiatives”, but neither the media release not the briefing we received spelled out how much SHR expects to save with the hiring freeze or the voluntary separation plan. SHR has not yet released their 2015-16 financial statement, nor their detailed budget plans for 2016-17.

We made very clear to SHR management that:

  • We share the Employer’s goal to ensure that the health system has enough resources to provide quality care services now, and into the future.
  • We believe that healthcare services in Saskatchewan should continue to be publicly funded, delivered and administered. This budget ‘crisis’ should not be used as an excuse to starve the public system of funding and move to a privatized healthcare system. It doesn’t work – just look to the U.S. healthcare system.
  • We are concerned that management’s focus on reducing overall paid hours of work, without a similar focus on addressing increasing workloads and system demands, will lead to an unsustainable short term “fix” that will be that much harder to correct in the future.
  • Ever increasing workload demands, inadequate staffing levels and ongoing employment uncertainty have caused unacceptable levels of stress and anxiety for our members. This impacts our members’ health and their ability to provide quality services.
  • The quality and sustainability of health care services are improved when our members can work to their full scope of practice as valued members of the health care services team.
  • We and our members are open to change and innovation, and we need full and timely access to objective evidence of how the changes are actually working to save money and improve care.
  • We strongly believe our members who want to continue their career in health care should have every opportunity and support to improve their skills and abilities to pursue more challenging roles and “re-careering”.
  • We also believe that members who wish to voluntarily leave health care have opportunities to exit gracefully and on terms that appropriately recognize their service.

In our consultations with health care employers and the provincial government, we will continue to emphasize these points. You have told us that, despite the understaffing and the heavy workloads, you are proud to work in health care. You should be proud of the dedicated and professional care you provide to your patients, clients, residents, and their families. We are continuing to monitor the government’s statements and use our contacts to try and find out as soon as possible what its plans are, so that we can keep you informed and engaged on this issue that matters so much to all of us and our families. We encourage you to keep us informed about your experiences of how SHR’s plan is communicated and implemented in your workplace. If you see impacts on the frontline care of patients, residents, and clients, we want to hear from you.

In Solidarity,

Barb Cape

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President’s Message: Let’s Talk About Provincial Health Care Bargaining

Summer is moving quickly and we are deep in the planning stages for our upcoming joint Extendicare and SAHO collective agreement Bargaining Conference which is happening on October 3 and 4 in Saskatoon.

We’ve sent out our bargaining surveys, both electronically and via paper format; you can find both on our website. There should be paper copies at your worksite – if not, call the Member Resource Centre (MRC) at 1-888-999 SEIU (7348) and we will make sure you get some. There are prizes for those who fill it out and provide their contact information. We have sent out the registrations and ‘save the date’ notifications for this conference.barb

We are accepting Expressions of Interest to be a member of the Union bargaining committee for the SEIU-West/SAHO bargaining table. Extendicare’s Union bargaining committee is comprised of the unit chairs of the five ECI facilities.

To access the Expression of Interest form, click here. It’s pretty detailed and that is on purpose: the time commitment is substantial, the work is varied and the ability to be a team player is essential. You see, it’s not just sitting at the bargaining table, you role is to support the leaders and negotiators. You will be meeting and listening to members’ issues at work; travelling in teams to different areas of the province (in all sorts of weather) to present updates to members in membership meetings; providing feedback and advice about Union and Employer proposals; and performing your duties at the bargaining table.

This is an opportunity to learn something absolutely new, to do some research in your off hours to expand your knowledge, to see a completely different aspect of both your collective agreement and your union. You will learn a lot about jobs in health care other than your own, and you will develop your team building, communication skills and self-confidence.

The requirements are: be a member in good standing (aka: pay your union dues) and a strong belief in trade union principles. You will be asked to reach out to your circle of work friends to share and gather information. You will be expected to contribute to caucus discussion and maintain confidentiality – no hanging out on your phone! You will be assigned tasks to assist the bargaining team. Your attendance at rallies, membership meetings, bargaining caucus’ and negotiations sessions is mandatory. You will have to carpool (per local policies) and we encourage room sharing.

If this sounds like something you are interested in, and you want to contribute to making our next round of bargaining a success for our members, then fill out this Expression of Interest form and send it to me at Barb.Cape@seiuwest.ca

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me for more information.

 

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Celebrate Nursing Week – It’s Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) Day!

By Barb Cape, President – SEIU-West

Happy National Nursing Week!! SEIU-West is so proud of its members who work in nursing teams – this week serves as an opportunity to show our gratitude, and to also share important information around the vital work they do. To start the week, I want to begin by highlighting Licensed Practical Nurses (stay tuned for Continuing Care Assistants’ Day, later this week!)

Recently, I had a very interesting conversation with a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) who is a member of SEIU-West in Saskatoon. She was upset about the ongoing struggle between the Registered Nurses and members of SUN, and their regulatory body, the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association (SRNA). She said, “Today is a sad day for regulation in Saskatchewan”. And while we in health care pay attention to these issues, what is this really about?Ads-SP-LP-quarter-page

Recently, the Ministry of Health approved the new set of bylaws that govern the Licensed Practical Nurse scope of practice under which LPNs can safely work. The bylaws were intended to provide role clarity as they describe quite specifically the work that is done by LPNs daily based on their competencies. As well, the LPN education program created and delivered by SASK Polytech has expanded to encompass some additional duties and practices. The new bylaws reflect these added education pieces. This process is no different from that of every other regulated profession, as they seek to remain up-to-date. For example, LPNs, Doctors, RNs, technologists, and pharmacists are all required to take continuing education credits to ensure that they remain current in their profession. It’s a great idea and even though I’m not in a regulated profession, I think lifelong learning and staying up to speed on my profession (Chef) is a brilliant idea.

But that’s part of the problem: SRNA and others are arguing that these skills are not a part of a LPNs ‘foundational’ education (aka their original course). But that’s a red herring because regulated professions add to their body of knowledge via their educational program. Additional courses and skill upgrades are regularly offered to all professions – regardless of who they are in health care. Lawyers do it. Accountants do it. And RNs do it…so why not LPNs? These courses or programs might be offered on-line, or via an employer, or through Sask Polytech… but they all must be a recognized and vetted course in order for it to count towards improving one’s skills.

There is a claim that LPNs are working outside of their scope and putting patients at risk. I have said this before and will say this again: PROVE IT! And if you know of someone working outside of their scope, contact SALPN immediately! It’s not ok once or twice; it’s not ok if no one is looking – it is not OK! But that being said, I have yet to find any evidence of LPNs putting their patients at risk by working outside of the LPN scope of practice. If the true issue is a lack of acceptance of the expanded education, skill and competencies of LPNs – that’s just goofy. There is a role for every health care profession in advancing the model of care Saskatchewan residents deserve. There is no role for professional jealousies.

As our LPN member who works in an Operating Room, she said: “…I love my job. I love going to work every day and I feel honored to help people during one of the scariest times in their lives. I took the same peri-op program as my RN counterparts and was partnered for group assignments with a RN. I was the sole LPN in a group with five RNs… we wrote the same exams, assignments and research papers. I feel strongly that my education prepared me to serve in my role. I feel strongly that the public should be able to have confidence in me when I come to walk them into the operating room. I am good at what I do.”

LPN Day

Click to enlarge.

The public needs to know that the work of EVERYONE on the health care team is valued. From maintenance, to administration, to front-line nursing, to support services, and everything in between. There are some jobs that I can’t and shouldn’t do, because I am a cook; just as there are some duties that a LPN can’t and shouldn’t do because it’s outside of the scope of practice for a LPN. There really is a role for all members of the nursing team including the RN, the LPN and the CCA.

As we celebrate Nursing week, I ask you to remember this: everyone has skills to bring to our health care system. We cannot operate in silos; we cannot eliminate any one player on our health care team and we all know how to improve our health care system… let’s remember that this week. Let’s work together to build strong nursing teams – to do this we must stop the ongoing attacks against all members of our nursing teams, recognize and value the professional skills offered by each and create pride and respect for our diverse roles.

Other Resources:

To enter the Nursing Week Contest, click here.

To download a pdf of the Nursing Week Poster, click here.

To listen to the Nursing Week Radio Ads, click on the links below:

Ad #1

Ad #2

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President’s Message: SHR Budget Update

On January 18 a team of senior management from Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) led by interim CEO Andrew Will came to SEIU-West’s Saskatoon office to discuss the latest developments in SHR’s efforts to deal with its budget issues. SEIU-West was represented by Director of Contract Bargaining and Enforcement (CB&E) Bob Laurie, Deputy Director of CB&E Russ Doell, Vice-President Neil Colmin, Treasurer Janice Platzke, Member Resource Centre Officer Angela Hosni and Research Officer Karman Kawchuk.

We have been hearing from and meeting with many of you and understand you have questions: will there be layoffs, and if so, where and when? Unfortunately, after this meeting we don’t have any more answers to these questions than we did after our last meeting with SHR leadership – see the December 21, 2015 President’s Message: Saskatoon Health Region.

Nevertheless, Mr. Will offered some hope that there are opportunities for all of us to have a positive effect on the outcome.

Mr. Will said he was very impressed by and grateful for SEIU-West’s post about the December meeting. He said he was especially struck by the member’s question “Where did the money go and how did we get such a large deficit?” and he spent the first part of the meeting attempting to answer it. SHR had a balanced budget a couple of years ago, but since then its expenses have risen much faster than its revenues. Some of this, he said, is because of population growth in the region and province, but some may be because SHR is not spending as wisely as it could be. He pointed out that more than 90% of SHR’s revenue comes from the provincial government, and that in the current economic situation the government is not in the mood to significantly increase its grants.

SHR leadership is currently preparing a draft “sustainability plan” which they will submit to the SHR Board and the Ministry of Health. They hope this will happen by the end of January. After the Board and Ministry have their input—which might result in big changes to the plan–the plan will be shared with SEIU-West and other stakeholders for feedback. It is unclear at this point when the plan will be finalized.

Mr. Will stated that “there will be job impacts” as the plan moves forward, but insisted that SHR wants to keep these impacts to a minimum. He assured us that SHR is open to all suggestions and will be examining all expenses.

As part of this initiative, you can expect to see information on your unit’s “visibility walls” about how much your unit costs to operate. Mr. Will has been part of several organizations that have encouraged front line workers to suggest ways to improve service and save costs. In his view, these organizations didn’t provide workers with enough detailed information about how much their particular work unit costs to operate. He wants to provide front-line workers with that kind of information, on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis, to help them develop informed suggestions and, if those suggestions are being tried on their unit, to help workers see as quickly as possible what impact their suggestions are having.

We encourage our members to take part in this process. SEIU-West believes that our members are the experts in health care and are best positioned to talk about how to keep our system healthy and functioning, and to identify cost saving ideas that will avoid layoffs. We made several suggestions at the meeting, including:

  • Ensure that our LPNs are allowed to work to their full scope of practice;
  • Improve training for front-line managers; and
  • Improve opportunities for current workers to become Continuing Care Assistants (“learn while you earn”).

I can advise that as of today’s date, no formal notice of layoff has been provided to SEIU-West. We will continue to work with SHR to minimize the impact of budget issues on patients, clients, residents and staff. The work that is done by our members in health care is a resource that does not lose it’s value.

Please feel free to forward your suggestions to my attention (barb.cape@seiuwest.ca) and we will ensure that all of your valued input is shared with SHR.

We are committed to ensuring clear and timely communication to all our members as this process develops. Keep checking our website and union boards for further information – we will provide updates as we have them.

We are stronger together!

In Solidarity,

Barbara Cape
President – SEIU-West

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President’s Message: Saskatoon Health Region

At the request of the Unit Executive, SEIU-West provincial and site leaders met with the membership of Royal University Hospital on December 10, 2015, to talk about the Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) budget deficit and potential for layoffs that were recently announced in the media by the CEO of SHR, Dan Florizone. Here is what we communicated to our members at the meeting, and what we wish to communicate to all of you.

On December 9, the Director and Deputy Director of Contract Bargaining and Enforcement, Bob Laurie, Russ Doell and I met with the interim CEO of Saskatoon Health Region, Andrew Will, and some of the senior leaders within SHR to talk about the deficit and possible staff reductions. They assured us that there would be no layoffs before Christmas. In fact, SEIU-West has not been served with formal layoff notice as required in our collective agreement. What we heard from SHR management was a desire and direction to look at everything; find out what is off track, but avoid impacts to people and services.

Andrew Will indicated that he wants to be thoughtful about this process of review, but there is no ‘hard’ plan in place at this time. The health region will be developing a more concrete plan closer to the end of January 2016. In the meantime, he is asking all staff to share their ideas for where we can save money in the system.

SEIU-West believes that our members are the experts in health care and are best positioned to talk about how to keep our system health and functioning. We encourage our members to participate in this process; if we can identify cost saving ideas that will avoid layoffs – then we need to participate!

During the membership meeting, there was time for Questions and Answers.

  • One of the questions that came up was around the layoff and bumping process. We talked about the language in the collective agreement in Article 12 and encouraged all members present to read that part of the collective agreement.
  • Another question was asked about who do members working at RUH tell if they have an idea for an efficiency? We strongly encourage members to share them with the RUH union office (or with your facility Union office) and they will be forwarded on to SHR leadership. Or, ideas can be sent to me at barb.cape@seiuwest.ca. I will ensure they are sent to SHR leadership. We do not know, at this time, who is gathering up front line member ideas, so we’ll help to send those suggestions on. Alternatively, we ask that you contact the MRC or visit and complete the website contact us form to share your suggestions, ideas or ask questions.
  • Our members talked about the short staffing challenges they are facing right now, every day, in the work they are doing for our patients, clients and residents. They wondered how bad it will be if staff get laid off. We talked about accountability: one member wanted to know where did the money go and how did we get such a large deficit? The membership also talked about their concern about the current state of staffing and ability to provide care and we have strongly encouraged them to contact the SEIU-West Member Resource Center (MRC) at 1-888-999-7348 ext. 2298 with their specific concerns, issues and evidence. We also said to beware of rumours – and if you hear anything, contact the MRC immediately so we can follow up on those concerns and stop the rumour mill.
  • One member spoke eloquently about the fact that we need to support our brothers and sisters in our workplace. We need to have each other’s back, especially during times of anxiety and uncertainty.

Members asked about sharing their stories with the senior leadership of SHR and the public; they want people to know their stories, hear about their current challenges in providing healthcare.

We cautioned members about contacting the media to share their opinion – let the right folks at SEIU-West do that where it is necessary. When commenting on social media, be aware there is an employment confidentiality policy in place as well as the SHR social media policy. A good rule of thumb is if you ask yourself, “I wonder if I should I post this?” – DO NOT POST!”

We are committed to ensuring clear and timely communication to all our members as this process develops. Keep checking our website and union boards for further information – we will provide updates as we have them.

We are stronger together!

In Solidarity,

Barbara Cape

President – SEIU-West

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President’s Message: We Did Vote!

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President’s Message: Immunize or Mask policies

Health care workers will not be confronted by an Immunize or Mask policy within the health sector this flu season.  SEIU-West has received information from the Council of Health Care CEO’s and an indication from the health regions (Cypress, Five Hills, Heartland, Saskatoon) that enforcement of the policies will be suspended this season and compliance will be voluntary only.

For some background to this, last flu season (2014-2015) was the first time an “immunize or mask” policy was implemented by the Ministry of Health, via the health regions.  The policy was based on a ruling from a BC arbitrator who concluded such policies were legitimate, based on scientific testimony from expert witnesses.

Ontario recently received an arbitration decision on its ‘Vaccinate or Mask’ policy from Arbitrator, Mr. James Hayes, in the matter between the Ontario Hospital Association and the Ontario Nurses’ Association. Mr. Hayes concluded the Vaccinate or Mask provisions of the Employer’s policy were an unreasonable exercise of management rights.  The policy did not encourage voluntary immunization or disclosure of immunization status.

SEIU-West, along with the other healthcare provider unions, wrote to the Ministry of Health to have further discussions about how this latest ruling affects or changes the Immunize or Mask policy within the health regions and Cancer Agency.  Because of our inquiries, and because the Ontario arbitration featured an expansive scope and volumes of medical and scientific evidence, the Ministry and the Health Care Employers are currently reviewing this decision and the Saskatchewan policy.

We have heard from a number of members about their concerns regarding this policy; about the overall safety of vaccines; and also the efficiency of vaccines when they are based on a predictive/assumption model about the predominant flu strain.  It is important to note the Ontario Arbitrator stressed what the arbitration case was not about.  The Award did not make any determination about the merits of influenza vaccination – a matter about which the experts agree and about which the Union, Ontario Nurses Association, and the Employer, Ontario Hospital Association, have reached specific agreement in their Collective Agreement.  Nothing in the Award is intended to dissuade anyone from the benefit of annual influenza immunization whatever may be the vaccination efficacy rate in any particular year.

SEIU-West believes that influenza immunization is effective in reducing the transmission of the flu and protecting the health of our patients, clients, residents and our colleagues.  We also believe our members should have a choice on whether or not to vaccinate for the flu season, and should not be coerced, in any fashion, to give up their choice.  But, with that choice come responsibilities.  Those responsibilities should be based on transparent, reasonable and practical direction given by the Employers for the purposes of effective infection control.  There also needs to be a requirement that meeting those responsibilities isn’t a requirement for just public sector health care workers, but other types of health care facilities and staff, and visitors and residents/clients/patients who need to be held to the same standard.  A broader policy mandate and a broader affected population will assist in determining the most efficient and acceptable practices from the many strategies to avoid outbreak and to manage infection control.

I am encouraged to see the health regions and cancer agency are taking the necessary time to pause and reconsider their policy.  At the end of the day, such reflection can only help to enhance the quality of our health care system.

 

Related documents – PDF format:

September 23, 2015: SEIU-West – Letter re Influenza immunization or Mask Policy

Letter to Stakeholders re 2015-16 Policy Update Oct 16 2015

October 16, 2015: Cypress Health Region – Memo re: Immunize or Mask

October 16, 2015: Saskatoon Health Region – Memo re Influenza Immunize or Mask Policy Update

October 19, 2015: Five Hills Health Region – Memo re Immunize or Mask Policy Update

October 19, 2015: Heartland Health Region – Memo re Influenza Immunize or Mask Policy Update

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Letter to SEIU-West LPNs: SRNA Training Directive

TO: LPN MEMBERS OF SEIU-WEST

RE: SRNA TRAINING DIRECTIVE

It has been brought to our attention that the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association (SRNA) has recently issued a directive to RN Clinical Educators and RNs warning them not to provide training in “complex skills” to LPNs.

Members employed in Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) have told us that SHR management has ordered all nursing staff in Home Care to comply with SRNA’s directive. Last night (July 23rd) a meeting of LPNs who work in SHR Home Care was held, with SEIU staff in attendance, to discuss member concerns.  We discussed the potential impact this directive may have upon the LPN professional scope of practice and our action plan to address this situation.

We wanted to let all of our LPN members know our opinion of these developments, how we plan to respond, and what you can do to help us to ensure that our response best serves your needs and makes a difference. These developments potentially affect all of our LPNs and their ability to perform skills and tasks that are within their professional scope of practice.

One health profession cannot be allowed to unilaterally decide what another health profession’s scope of practice will be. And yet this is precisely what SRNA is attempting to do. In our view, SRNA is going far beyond its legally authorized role as professional regulator, and is behaving like a professional advocate, dressing up a power grab in dubious “public safety” arguments. We are aware that both the SRNA and the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) have been actively engaged in activities to increase the role of the RN in the health care sector.

Make no mistake: there are no legal, ethical, scientific or patient care justifications for what is occurring here. We plan to remind SRNA and SUN, as well as the Ministry of Health and the health regions, that the provision of safe care that is patient/family/client centred requires respectful collaboration by all members of the health care team.  This will be a priority discussion item within our partnership forum.

We are seeking clarification from SHR management about how they plan to interpret and implement SRNA’s directive, and warning them that they may be in violation of the collective agreement. Your union representatives in SHR have already begun to file policy grievances.

You are encouraged to report to the incident line/MRC (1.888.999.7348) every time you are denied a training opportunity. We will process individual grievances in these circumstances.

We will continue to keep you updated on any future developments.

Yours truly,

Barbara Cape

President, SEIU-West

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President’s Message: WE WON!!!!

Today the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) struck down the Saskatchewan government’s essential services legislation and ruled in favour of the case put forward by the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL), SEIU-West and other intervenors.

This is a great victory for SEIU members; together, many of us struggled under this regressive legislation during our 2008 round of provincial health provider bargaining.  Since this time, we have worked very hard to change the bargaining environment.court

This decision enshrines the right to strike as a Charter protected right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  This is in addition to the protection of the right to organize and the right to bargain collectively.

Today’s decision from the SCC recognizes the relevance of labour relations history in Saskatchewan, and across Canada; it also acknowledges the impact of international law that protects the right to strike globally; and it ensures the democratic rights of working men and women are protected.

The SCC has said that the right to strike can be restricted – but only if there are mechanisms in place that provide alternate and fair resolution strategies to ensure  a continued balance of power between workers and employers.

From the perspective of SEIU-West, this decision reinforces that the Saskatchewan’s government essential services legislation was ideologically based, not based on good public policy.  Flowing out of this legislation, there was no extended improvement to match the directed essential services staffing levels in our workplaces.  We saw clearly that this legislation was simply put in place to neuter unionized workers in their right to collectively bargain.

The SCC recognized that the employer/employee relationship is deeply imbalanced and that the possibility of a strike enables workers to negotiate with their employers on a more level playing field. Individual employees alone typically lack the power to bargain and achieve gains with a powerful employer. But we have seen how, together, working people can improve their lives and our ability to work together for change is protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

There is much work to do in our review and consideration of the long-term impact of this legal decision.  This decision means that we will now renew our offer to sit down with the Government of Saskatchewan, and consult on what good public policy looks like in managing the issues around labour.  This illustrates that SEIU-West members will not take a back seat when their collective agreement rights or their constitutional rights are taken away.

This victory belongs to our members and to all working people; it will set a historical precedent for the broader community of labour, for many years to come. As a leader within SEIU-West, I am proud to share this well deserved and long awaited news with you today.

Related links:

MEDIA RELEASE: A Victory for Working Families

SFL Media Release: Supreme Court Sides with Working Families, Restores Balance to Labour Relations

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President’s Message: Partnership Agreement

Today, SEIU-West announced the Partnership agreement that we have signed with the Government of Saskatchewan and our four health regions (Cypress, Five Hills, Heartland and Saskatoon Health Regions).

We have been talking with our members, one on one, at unit meetings, at our Leadership Conference, and during our Political Action conference; many conversations over the last six months have centred on this agreement, yet this is our ‘official’ media release of this initiative.

SEIU-West entered into this partnership in order to take our members’ issues and concerns to the next level; we want to raise your concerns about safe staffing, recruitment & retention issues, we need to canvass the roles and responsibilities of everyone on the health care team, among other things.  We believe that we need to have senior leaders at a table, willing to make decisions and try new initiatives to improve the quality of the care we all provide.

When we have raised issues of workload concerns, we’ve taken them to the Minister of Health – but there hasn’t been a consistent ability to sit down and talk about those concerns.  This partnership sets out regular meetings, without hype, without taking positions, where the health regions, the Ministry of Health and SEIU-West can talk about solutions to our health care struggles.

While collective bargaining allows SEIU-West and employers to address collective agreement issues (wages, benefits, hours of work) it doesn’t give us an opportunity to look a system-wide solutions.  To tackle questions like how do we improve scheduling processes so our members are able to have gainful employment, and not have to work so much overtime?  It’s a problem and people are getting burned out! How do we look at our culture of safety so that people aren’t working injured or sick? How do we make sure that the roles of all health care workers are respected and clear? How do our members know that their voice, their opinion and their expertise in front-line care is valued and welcomed?

SEIU-West believes that the experts in healthcare are our members who do the work each day. We believe that you have great ideas, care deeply about your work and want the very best care for our patients, clients and residents.  It is our intention to do all we can to make sure that we are able to promote that idea – and that includes trying new ways to engage with health regions and the Ministry of Health.

This partnership gives us dedicated time to make some improvements in the health care system, but also to pause and evaluate whether or not we are successful.  We will have some honest conversations, put forward different ideas, and try to improve the health care system.  SEIU-West will report back on our website, on a regular basis as to how the meetings are going.

Albert Einstein said insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  We have taken note of his advice.  To this end, SEIU-West is trying to change how we do things to try to get better results for our members.  We ask that all SEIU-West members employed in the four health regions support us in this new initiative, and in doing so, do not hesitate to share your concerns and/or ideas for improvement in our much valued public health care system. Together, we can strive to enhance quality health care services.

In Solidarity,

Barbara Cape

President

 

Click on the link below to download a PDF version of the media release:

MEDIA RELEASE: Provincial Government, SEIU-West and Health Regions Sign Partnership

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President’s Message: Infection Control Measures – “Immunize or Mask” policy

In the last several weeks, the health regions and affiliates adopted the “Immunize or Mask” policy aimed at increasing immunization rates during this flu season.  The policy was drafted by the Ministry of Health, in consultation with the Provincial Chief Medical Health Officer, and is bolstered by a recent arbitration ruling from British Columbia that sets out Employers can rely on and enforce the provisions of an “Immunize or Mask” policy.

SEIU-West met with the RHA’s, along with other health care unions, and the Ministry of Health, to discuss our concerns about this sort of policy and the potential impact that it would have on front-line staff.  We were able to see the original policy amended to some degree, including the guarantee that the mask would not be considered as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and therefore not subject to any sort of summary offense ticketing scheme.

We believe very strongly in our members’ having a choice on whether to immunize or not, and while this might not feel like the choice we desired, we do have a choice on whether or not to be immunized.  We also believe that there are a number of avenues in our collective agreement that can address the issue of staffing during an outbreak (for instance, moving someone to a non-outbreak area). We also believe that this policy should be fairly administered by facilities to include the mandatory wearing of masks by guests, visitors and the public who are not immunized.  Because it’s not just health care workers who are on the front line of an outbreak – we are all responsible and we should all take steps to fulfill our responsibility.

Studies show that, consistently, immunization is an effective way to prevent an influenza outbreak. However, we understand from studies carried out by health care researchers that immunization is NOT THE ONLY way to avoid an outbreak.  The studies show that proper infection control protocols needs to be in place as well. This would include adequate staffing to ensure that the care and cleaning are being done according to best practices.

SEIU-West encourages you to be familiar with the “Immunize or Mask” policy and to abide by it.  We  have written to our regional health authorities and the Minister of Health to point out our statement on this policy, but also to advocate for safe staffing levels throughout the year in order to provide the best and safest Patient and Family Centered Care possible to the people we serve.

Related documents:

Member Notice: Influenza Season

Letter: Infection control measures: Cypress Health Region (CHR) – Beth Vachon

Letter: Infection control measures Five Hills Health Region (FHHR) – Cheryl Craig

Letter: Infection control measures Heartland Health Region (HHR) – Greg Cummings

Letter: Infection control measures Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) – Dan Florizone

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