President’s message

President’s Message: JJE, LOU, and Teleconferences

Welcome back from your holiday break and Happy New Year to you and your families. There’s much to look forward to and also reflect on; I’m not a big resolution maker, however, I do look at how I can improve in work and personal areas. But I also reflect on the past year and what we have been able to do together; what had a positive impact and what didn’t hit the mark.

One of the things that I believe had a positive impact were a series of teleconferences we held with members affected by the changes to the Joint Job Evaluation Education (JJE) factor rating changes. We met with members from the Diagnostic Imaging family of classifications and Recreation Coordinators. In both instances, the concern in part was that the JJE reviewed the hours required for education due to a reduction in the number of classroom hours by the education institutions. This reduction, in turn, reduced the pay band for a number of classifications – not all of them, but some of them. Our Union rep, Tracy Goodheart, had met previously with groups in the admin and finance family of classifications with similar concerns.

I think we can all agree that every single person who works in health care brings incredible value and team work to our system. So when we see the reduction in pay of any of our members due to changes to JJE ratings, we take a good hard look at what was done, why it was done and how can we best manage the issues. I don’t believe anyone foresaw the educational institutions dramatically reducing classroom hours or making the changes they did to some entrance prerequisites, without consulting the people who would be affected. Such dramatic change to the education system should not change the value of the work performed and quite simply, we see this as a de-valuing of the jobs – as the required skills and knowledge remain the same. Adding to this is the fact that new processes, equipment and knowledge are introduced regularly in a world-class health system like ours and now members of certain classifications are required to fulfill on-going education requirements. The JJE plan needs to take the additional requirements into account to ensure that the integrity of the job evaluation plan is maintained.

In our SAHO/SEIU-West Bargaining update no. 9, we shared with our members that we had focused on this problem for a series of bargaining dates. In the end, we were able to negotiate a Letter of Understanding (LOU) that set in place a thorough review of the JJE plan. As part of that LOU, there is a moratorium on implementing the reduction in pay band changes because of education factor changes and at the same time, we reached agreement that where pay bands went up, the changes would be implemented. Further to that, we have included a process where, after the JJE plan review and the application of the new job factors by the maintenance committee, where pay bands do not return to their former levels, implementation would be stopped for three months so that we can negotiate the need for a market adjustment or supplement to address recruitment and retention issues.

Ultimately, we are competing for skilled health care professionals from across western Canada, but also across the country. We’ve asked for any supporting information that shows that our members, or potential members, are looking to leave Saskatchewan which will impact recruitment and retention strategies. We need to always be diligent that the JJE processes do not exacerbate already existing interprovincial pay inequities. If you have any of this information, please share it with me at barb.cape@seiuwest.ca and I will ensure that our JJE review committee members get a copy.

The job evaluation plan is a solid one, but it hasn’t had an in-depth review for over 15 years. This LOU for a JJE plan review will allow us to dig into where we need to make improvements and address any deficiencies in the plan.
In some of the conference calls, there were questions about SUN and HSAS not being a part of the JJE plan – that is correct. Our JJE plan is only for the health care provider unions of SEIU-West, CUPE, and SGEU.

In our conference calls, there was a lot of enthusiasm for assisting in this job evaluation plan review…and I can tell you that we appreciate the interest and offers. We are limited in the number of people we can have on the review committee and this review is not just for those affected classifications, but for the whole plan. So we have named Bob Laurie, Director of Contract Bargaining and Enforcement and Russ Doell, Deputy Director of Contract Bargaining and Enforcement, to this committee. And we have taken the names of those volunteers who’ve indicated that they would act as a resource for specific classifications. These people would be a resource to provide information only for a specific meeting or period of time if called upon by the committee.

There are no guarantees that we will see increases to pay bands – I don’t want to mislead any of you; pay bands may go up; they may stay where they are; or they may be reduced. But we want to ensure a fair review process that members can understand and engage in.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the members of those classifications who requested and joined our conference calls. Having a meeting like this before a busy time like a holiday break is never ideal, but there was a lot of interest and questions and information provided to everyone on the call. Further to that, a number of our members wrote to their elected MLA’s who sit in the Legislature, outlining the recruitment and retention issues this raises and also identifying how this would impact patient-centered care – this was brilliant as it assisted all parties in moving to an agreement on this LOU so quickly. So I salute each one of you who took the time to ask questions and engage on this issue.

We haven’t shared the actual LOU as it is jointly signed by our coalition partners, CUPE and SGEU, along with SAHO. We would need to seek their agreement to sharing and will do so in the coming days.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our Member Resource Center (MRC) at 1-888-999-7348 ext. 2298.

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PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE: Virtual Town Hall Follow Up Part Six

Well, this is our last update on the questions/answers we received from our virtual town hall meetings in September. I have to say that there were a lot of really thought-provoking questions that have guided some of the deliberations of the bargaining committee(these are continued from the Oct. 13Oct. 17Oct. 24Oct. 30, and Nov. 21 posts).

23. If there’s a wage reduction of 3.5% what would they do with the money? – Shelagh, Saskatoon.

The government of Saskatchewan is looking to reduce their budget deficit and are looking in every place they can think of to make reductions. The problem with that strategy, is that they do not take into account the incredible recruitment and retention issues that we have in health care (or education or anywhere else in the public service). The health care system is very labour intensive, and so we need the skilled, qualified, professionals in house to do this work. The money would be used to reduce the provincial deficit and not remedy health care issues like workload or short staffing; this is the short answer to your question.

24. Can Family Illness leave get changed to 3 personal days that can be used for any purpose? –Nelson, Swift Current.

That hasn’t been an identified priority in our discussions with members, the bargaining surveys or the bargaining conference that SEIU-West conducted. While there are members who would like that, it would not be a top priority identified by the bargaining committee to take ‘illness’ out of the requirement for Family Illness Leave. The Union has had success in defending our current interpretation and application of the benefit to the benefit of our members.

25. Why doesn’t the health district hire back people who have retired? – Doreen, Saskatoon.

Well, in some cases they do – depending on the need and the recruitment issues the employer(s) are experiencing. But this is also a cost-saving measure on the part of the employer: if they wait the 120 days until after retirement, then the individual member will no longer be able to maintain seniority, sick leave credits, vacation rate, and certain benefits, for example extended health benefits, and has to start earning them all over again like a new employee.

26. The MLA’s should walk a 12 hour shift in the shoes of front line workers, maybe then negotiations will go more smoothly. – Connie, retired member.

That’s a brilliant idea! And we’ve been putting out invitations to Walk a Day in Our Shoes to the Minister of Health, assorted MLA’s, and even the CEO of Saskatoon Health Region was invited to do this. Incredibly, they don’t appear to have the time! We video these so that we can share them broadly with the public so that they get a bird’s eye view of the work our members do, as well as the person doing the shadowing.

We’ve done this once before in the Community Based Organization (CBO) sector and filmed it and put it on our website. But the health regions aren’t wild about us filming the experience in their facilities…even though SEIU-West would pay for it!

We’ve tried to do this in long term care, the labs, and acute care…but no luck.

We’ve offered to have me shadow a Medical Laboratory Technologist, but they aren’t taking us up on the offer. I was able to go on a tour – not a job shadow – for our tradesmen in Saskatoon and that was an incredible eye opener.
If decision-makers only knew the miles that health care workers put on in a day; if they only knew about the challenges in every interaction and pressures of short staffing…then maybe there would be an investment in the health care system’s staff who keep it running every day.

But we won’t stop, just because we’ve been turned down a few times…this is important and needs to be showcased for the public!

27. When the new health region takes place…will I have the ability to bid on jobs province wide? – Shanelle, Biggar.

That is the plan. What the health care provider unions are trying to finalize is how your seniority will be treated in non-SEIU-West jurisdictions.

We want to ensure that you keep your SEIU-West hours based seniority; and if you bid outside of our jurisdiction, there is a formula that we have used to change your hours based seniority into a date of hire seniority. We haven’t locked this down yet in our bargaining process or with the Transition Team for the new Health region; it’s a work in progress.

28. What does SAHO or the government say about more privatization of services? – Meredith, Saskatoon.

Lately they haven’t been saying too much.

In the past, the former Minister of Health, Dustin Duncan, indicated that the government believed health care was only about hands-on services. But then he never expanded on that idea and now he is no longer the Minister of Health.

There are no business cases moving forward right now to look at contracted out options because all focus is on getting the new Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) up and running on December 4.

There is a strong case to be made against further privatization of services: private services cost the health system, and government more money; there has been incredible concerns about the quality and consistency of the private service; private services do not reduce waitlists; and there is a question about whether or not private services fall within The Canada Public Health Act.

But I don’t think this strategy has hit the dust bin…it will rear its head again.

29. Is there some way they can tell us what the cost of labour is without including managerial staff? – Jacquelin, Saskatoon.

I believe those numbers are reflected in the annual reports, but only in really broad terms. If you are looking for a breakdown, SHR’s website has a budget breakdown that shows a graph with some really broad information about where their funding comes from; how it is spent; and the groups of staff that are attracting salary. There are likely the same annual reports available for each health region on their websites. But there are no specific breakdowns available publicly for what you are looking for as far as we know.

30. What are we doing about LPN’s being laid off and replaced with RN’s? – Jenna, Saskatoon.

Where LPN’s have been laid off and replaced with RN’s, we are following the layoff language and options under the collective agreement and making sure that our members have access to all their rights. (We also have situations where RNs have been laid off and replaced with LPNs.)

The challenge that we are faced with is that SALPN and SRNA have differing opinions on what skills and abilities that each classification are able to perform. They are the regulatory bodies for LPNs and RNs and have not necessarily come to agreement – nor have they been regularly consulted on what skills and advanced competencies LPNs are able to perform.

31. I would like a detailed breakdown of Employer’s currently outstanding bargaining proposals. –John, Saskatoon.

Please take a look at bargaining update no. 3 where we list the Employer’s bargaining proposals. These were presented on our first day of bargaining in May and there has been movement since then.
We don’t share our proposals publicly because such actions would inhibit negotiations, could be considered an Unfair Labour Practice (ULP) and bargaining in the public realm. All those things delay meaningful bargaining and make the process last a very long time.

32. Is the union proposing language to prohibit breaking full-time (FT) positions into part-time (PT) positions? How does this save money? – Holly, Saskatoon.

We already have language that talks about this: Letter of Intent #1 at page 202 of the current Collective Agreement talks about the employment of as many FT and PT positions as possible.

But where that letter of intent isn’t enough, we want our members to keep the Union informed by reaching out to the Member Resource Center and our Shop Stewards with their information. In addition to this, we have proposed language that would strengthen the workload reporting language to our OHS committees.

33. There are casuals who won’t pick up more shifts in a month. Would that help the understaffing situation? – Melissa, Watson.

There are any number of reasons that a casual won’t pick up more shifts: they might already have another job; they are pre-booked at another job; they might have a limit on the number of hours they can work; the workload might be so heavy they are afraid of getting hurt. The Collective Agreement has language to address what to do where a casual employee is consistently unavailable for call-in work.

We believe properly staffing the facilities in the first place to reduce the dependence on casual employees would improve the situation.

I remember when overtime (OT) in my facility was a rarity; I could count on one hand how many times OT was used in a year! But now, OT is relied on as a way to avoid recruiting new staff

Understaffing has become chronic in part because our health regions aren’t funded properly. We need legislation and leadership on safe staffing levels in order to not only get us back to providing the quality of care we know we can, but also to address the illness and injury levels in our health care system. Short staffing is a contributing factor to those issues.

34. Is there any back-pay expected to come to us as of March 31st? – Barb, Rosthern.

That really depends on what sort of monetary settlement that our members agree to. If there are 0%…then there would be no back-pay. If there is any sort of an increase, then we would absolutely bargain for retroactivity.

35. There were rumours that there was going to be a retirement buy-out. Is this true and if it is, how much would it be? – Linda, Shaunavon.

I haven’t heard those rumors nor have any of the employers approached SEIU-West about this. At this point, I would say that it isn’t true.

36. Is there any talk in negotiations to address notice of cancellation for overtime? – Tammy, Biggar.

This has become a constant issue in health care: members are called into work, the member identifies that its overtime, they agree to work and then the overtime is cancelled. We are currently dealing with a number of grievances on this issue and we are looking to advance a test case to arbitration.

37. Scheduling errors: call out procedures are too complicated; there are too many rules – can this be simplified? – Suzanne, Harris.

I once had the opportunity to spend a couple hours watching a scheduler go about the process of trying to fill shifts…it’s mind-boggling the number of hoops that managers set out for the process of calling in staff, let alone if it’s an overtime shift! My hat is off to all the schedulers out there.

In some health regions, there is an electronic call out process that goes to everyone’s mobile device. In other health regions, there is the traditional call process. But in all health regions, the rules set out have to follow the collective agreement. The opportunity is for first part-time then casual to accept offers of work.

We do recognize that call-in is challenging and we have committed to have a discussion with the employers and SAHO about how we can address those concerns and still give our members the right and opportunity to expand their hours.

38. Why is there a hiring freeze but they continue to hire management? –Pattie, Watrous.

I like this question, but I simply cannot tell you what is going on in the employers’ minds when they do this. I really wish I could!

The Employer says the hiring freeze is so that they can save some money on their budgets. We have been told that where there is a hard to recruit position, they will address the hiring of a staff member on a case-by-case basis. Employers are not obligated to consult with the Union when they decide to hire managers, but if you want to share the details with us, we can ask some questions and try to get you an answer.

Well, folks, that brings us to the end of our virtual town hall Q & A updates.

Your SEIU-West bargaining committee is going back to the table from November 23- 27.

As I have said before (and will say again!) your support, engagement and ideas help keep the bargaining committee going. We continue to ask you to contact your MLAs; to tell them how a 3.5 % reduction would affect you and your family how it would impact your ability to live and work in Saskatchewan. Tell your MLAs that this is a recruitment and retention issue and they need to stand up and support health care workers. And, when you send that message, copy the Minister of Health, Jim Reiter…I’m pretty sure he needs to hear from all of you!

This outreach is working, we are seeing movement at our bargaining table and we need to get everyone involved in talking with your MLA’s…this isn’t just about bargaining, this is about keeping Saskatchewan’s health system, along with the dedicated health care providers, alive and thriving!

Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact the Member Resource Center (MRC) at 1-888-999-7348 Ext 2298.

In Solidarity, on behalf of the SEIU-West bargaining committee,

Barbara Cape
President, SEIU-West

President’s messages:
Oct 13: Virtual Town Hall Follow Up Part One
Oct 17: Virtual Town Hall Follow Up Part Two
Oct. 24: Virtual Town Hall Follow Up Part Three
Oct. 30: Virtual Town Hall Follow Up Part Four
Nov. 21: Virtual Town Hall Follow Up Part Five

Health Care Provider Week:

Op-Ed: Health Care Provider Week
Celebrating Health Care Provider Week

Pages:
SAHO Bargaining Page
Extendicare Bargaining
Transformational Change Page

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PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE: Virtual Town Hall Follow Up Part Five

There’s been a bit of a gap in the updates on the questions following up from our virtual town hall meetings held in late September. Since then, there have bargaining sessions with SAHO held and a laser like focus on achieving a fair and equitable collective agreement. Not to mention the increased activity around the ‘go live’ date for the new provincial health authority set for December 4, 2017.

So we return to the questions that were presented during our town hall meetings (these are continued from the Oct. 13Oct. 17Oct. 24 and Oct. 30 posts) We want to be certain that we are closing the loop on our communications and ensuring that when you ask a question of your union – you get an answer.

16. Where are they sitting at with contracting out work. The employers is sending out Lab work to DynaCare? – Carla, Saskatoon.

This is a great example of our members getting the information to us because unfortunately, the employer doesn’t always check with the union or the collective agreement before they embark on a path like this! (I know, what are they thinking??!!) Like every area in healthcare, we are short-staffed in labs. The DynaCare solution was a stop-gap until the Employer could get some staff recruited. There are 4 new people lined up to start within the next 2 months. Dynacare service is going to end in January. When members were asked their opinion on the best way to address this, they reluctantly agreed to this temporary measure as opposed to being mandated for overtime.

Further to this, when the Government of Saskatchewan decided to shut down STC, there was no consultation or engagement with the health regions who relied on STC to provide transport for lab specimens for testing and diagnosis. This has created another layer of a privatized service. A private for profit company called LifeLabs charge the health regions for transporting lab specimens for testing. The short answer to this problem is that in order to address costs and create an efficient responsive lab service, we need to make sure we have the correct equipment, staff and supports in place. Lab services are incredibly important: they provide testing for cancer, disease, immunology and the list goes on. If our lab services are compromised, it impacts timely care provided to everyone.

17. Why doesn’t the bargaining committee challenge the employer on how many management there are as there are so many less front line workers? Where did the employer find the money for more management jobs? – Michelle, Moose Jaw.

The bargaining committee hasn’t challenged this because there is no way to guarantee less management will translate into more front line staff. The bargaining committee is focused on our primary goal – getting our members a good collective agreement. With that said, it doesn’t mean that SEIU-West hasn’t raised this concern numerous times and in a number of different forums. We have talked about this issue with the Ministry of Health, the health regions, and 3sHealth. Using the exact same perspective that our members see every day; there appears to be multiple layers of management but getting our positions or vacant shifts filled doesn’t seem to be a priority.

I was once told by a senior health region executive that ‘actually’ the Saskatchewan Health regions run with less management that other health regions…I’m not buying that. Right now, we are seeing the departure of some OOS managers because of the impending changes with the provincial health authority. I don’t want to see front line health care workers leave because of the knowledge, skill and professionalism that you bring to the job every day.

18. Member’s is off sick with Huntington’s on DIP and will never work again but is an SEIU-West member. God bless you – Phyllis.

Well, I don’t know what to say except thanks and bless you too! I wish you as much positive energy and peace as you manage your illness…it can’t be easy.

19. Why is there a discrepancy on the mileage payout between the CCAs and the LPNs or RNs? – Francis, Moose Jaw.

There shouldn’t be a difference in the mileage rate for LPNs and CCAs. They are captured under the same collective agreement language in our SEIU-West contract.

RNs negotiated a different rate than we did. We’ve tried to raise this rate for our home care members and all other members who are required to travel for their work. Over the years we’ve seen modest increases, but they have simply not matched what SUN negotiated for their members. We have repeatedly advised the employers and SAHO (in negotiations) that the mileage rates are intended to offset personal cost for the use of one’s vehicle – and these costs are the same for all health sector employees. Our advice has fallen on deaf ears.

20. With SAHO continuing to insist on cuts to pay, is this considered actively bargaining or an unfair labour practice? – Kevin, Saskatoon.

Let me as blunt as possible – it’s not just SAHO that is insisting on these cuts, it is the Government of Saskatchewan who have stuck their nose into bargaining in a way they have not done in my past experience. I’ve said this before and will say it again: that this is government’s mandate – but that it is not the mandate that the bargaining committee was given from our membership.

What SAHO is doing could be considered “hard bargaining” which is not an unfair labour practice (ULP). While our recent Supreme Court decision won unions the right to collective bargaining, the court has clarified unions don’t have a right to any certainty in the outcome of bargaining.

SAHO has moved in that they reduced their initial proposal from a menu of cuts amounting to 4.09% down to a menu of cuts amounting to 3.6% (ironic slow clap here)…but we are seeing movement. If we file an ULP complaint with the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board, progress is halted and it isn’t clear that we’ll see a positive result. It could also trigger the government to introduce legislation to set out what the outcome of collective bargaining will be, much like what the government in both Manitoba and Nova Scotia have done.

While we can always mount a legal challenge to government legislation to force changes, the best agreements are the ones that we negotiate ourselves.

21. With the new health authority what will be the effect on seniority due to other unions and merging? – Deanna, Kyle.

At this point, all three unions, SEIU-West, CUPE and SGEU, are taking the position that our seniority processes remain the same. So that would mean SEIU-West members still earn seniority based on hours worked, as opposed to date of hire.

The transition team for the new health authority wants to see a standard way of addressing seniority for all health providers. So there are discussions still to be had in this regard.

As well, the three unions have proposed a formal bargaining association that would manage bargaining and provincial issues. When we look at provincial issues, we consider postings/bidding; transfers; and grievances that would have a provincial impact to be included in that category. We believe that this health care provider association is a way to avoid having representation votes between the three unions; that it will assist in providing labour relations stability for the move to one health authority and also ease some of the anxiety for our members going through this health region restructuring.

22. With the proposed cutbacks, some job titles and positions are fairly similar to market level. Others such as the trades are a huge gap. How can that gap be addressed? – Kelly, Saskatoon.

This is an area of particular interest to me as I’ve spent a fair amount of time getting to know the trades and their issues, what the market pressures are, and spent time touring their work sites and getting to know more about the actual work being done.

In our last round of bargaining, we got creative in addressing the trades specific market issues and developed a LOU on retention bonuses that would address the market pressures being experienced in certain locations and classifications.

Unfortunately, the retention bonuses were withdrawn by the employer as they felt that the market pressures were no longer present. We are losing skilled professionals from the health system in a way that doesn’t recognize their knowledge and value and that is a damn shame!

We’ve reached out to members in the affected classifications to ask for market information so that we can reintroduce the retention bonus and get back to par. Other avenues for this to be addressed is via the provincial market supplement program or through negotiated market adjustments But we need the data to be successful in this argument; we need your knowledge and expertise so that we can provide the evidence that will guide better decision making.

Your SEIU-West bargaining committee is going back to the table with SAHO and the employers November 23rd to 27th. We are bargaining through the weekend because we believe that there is an opportunity to increase the pressure on the elected politicians and elevate the debate on what this new Saskatchewan Health Authority will look like as a ‘future state’.

We are continuing to ask members, their families, and friends to call your MLA, tell them what a cut of 3.5% would do to your ability to live and work and raise a family in Saskatchewan. Tell them about the value you bring to the workplace every single day and be proud of this work!

I spoke to one tradesman who told me about a doorstep conversation he had with his MLA – when he talked about the recruitment and retention challenges he experienced, his MLA told him to go get another job! What??!! That is not the answer…maybe that MLA should get another job when he’s voted out of office!

In Solidarity,
Barbara Cape
President, SEIU-West

Related Content:

President’s messages:
Oct 13: Virtual Town Hall Follow Up Part One
Oct 17: Virtual Town Hall Follow Up Part Two
Oct. 24: Virtual Town Hall Follow Up Part Three
Oct. 30: Virtual Town Hall Follow Up Part Four

Health Care Provider Week:

Op-Ed: Health Care Provider Week
Celebrating Health Care Provider Week

Pages:
SAHO Bargaining Page
Extendicare Bargaining
Transformational Change Page

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President’s Message: JJE and Diagnostic Imaging Technologists

The JJEMC identified over a year ago that a whole host of classifications (including the MRT, MRI techs & Diagnostic Medical Sonographers) were going to be affected potentially through JJE due to education changes implemented at (Canadian) education institutions.

  1. The Unions requested provincial job reviews so as to delay the anticipated review and implementation process and to allow the parties to negotiate fundamental changes to the education factor within the JJE program to address concerns including retention and recruitment challenges. Another major reason for requesting a provincial review is that changes to other factors could potentially offset the changes to course hours and program entry requirements.
  2. The Unions – since the conclusion of the provincial job reviews (looking at those job fact sheets submitted from across the province) – have asked SAHO and the employers repeatedly to delay the implementation of the lower pay bands to new employees until the parties have a chance to review the JJE plan. SEIU-West have done so again as of November 1, 2017 (at the bargaining table).
  3. Not certain if our members recall but history has repeated itself with this factor rating problem (as it relates to the technologist classifications). The last time we attempted to deal with it, the results were a LOU (on page 168 of the CBA) re: review of Technologist/Technician classifications. This time we would like to fix the problem permanently through the negotiation of a revised factor analysis to the JJE program as it would allow for an examination of the appropriateness of the plan with respect to the classifications that have been effected. What needs to be understood is that funding cuts to learning institutions may lend to reduced program hour changes (our current experience) in an effort to reduce overall education institution budgets…thus begins the cycle.
  4.  The Unions have tabled a number of proposals at collective bargaining including the most recent which is to strike a sub-committee to deal with the negotiation of the fundamental change to the education factor as it is weighs into the JJE program and what the components are of the education factor.

We are pleased that we have members speaking out at this time as we need your help to highlight the projected outward migration to Alberta or Ontario as a result of these decisions continuing to move forward.

Further, we need to emphasize that any planned recruitment for the Children’s Hospital will be significantly affected as a result of these decisions continuing to move forward.

Once again, we need you to contact your MLA and the Health Minister’s office to let them know that they will NOT be able to fill any vacancies moving forward and there will be more of them as technologists will certainly opt for higher pay in Alberta at the new Edmonton hospital.

This is what we know:

  •  The MRT classification as well as the Diagnostic Medical Sonographer classification have been on the SHR Hard to Recruit list for over seven years. This is going to make an already unmanageable problem worse.

Finally, we would like to meet with our members employed in the Technologist classifications (including MRTs, MRITs & DMS) to have a more fulsome discussion. We have put a request forward to get copies of materials held by the JJEMC assistant so as to get added info prior to our meeting; she is on vacation until November 7, 2017.

As well, we are meeting with SAHO for negotiations all this week so we will need to look at dates next week or later.

In Solidarity,
Barbara Cape
President, SEIU-West

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PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE: Virtual Town Hall Follow Up Part Four

As I write this, we are in the middle of Health Care Providers week and I couldn’t help thinking about all of the opportunities I’ve had to talk with members over the past days, months and years…

I have toured RUH with our tradesmen; I have received a primer on labs in the old Moose Jaw hospital; I have had lunch with a number of Continuing Care Assistants; I have lobbied with Licensed Practical Nurses; I have walked through dietary departments in transition; I have talked for hours with Environmental Service workers; I have asked a million questions of cardio techs and sleep lab techs; I have tried to understand the ‘voodoo’ that is scheduling with our schedulers; and I have recently heard from a whole bunch of our members who are experiencing retention and recruitment issues in diagnostic imaging… for everyone in between, we have thought about you, fought for you, lobbied with you and done our best to ensure that you know you are incredibly important to our union, to our health care system and to our province.

We will not stop fighting to make sure your voices are heard.

And because you do not hear this nearly enough – THANK YOU for your incredible skill, professionalism, and service to providing high quality health care in Saskatchewan every single day.

Following up from our previous editions of the questions from our virtual town hall(these are continued from the Oct. 13, Oct. 17 and Oct. 24 posts): here is the next edition for your reading pleasure:

12. A member is concerned about the additional steps being proposed. “her position was already lowered in steps (office coordinator – renamed to officer supervisor). New hires are at a lower rate. Why is this employer making this demand again? – Bonnie, Saskatoon.

This question highlights two distinct processes that have the potential to effect rates of pay. The officer coordinator job description was reviewed through Joint Job Evaluation (JJE). The JJE process may have affected/lowered the final pay band of the position, however this is different than adding two additional steps as the Government is proposing. The simple answer to this is that the Government of Saskatchewan has directed this initiative of 2 lower pay steps as a way to save money towards the -3.5% cut. But we all know (and have explained in incredible detail to employers and government) that we cannot attract and retain skilled staff now – let alone if we are forced to add additional lower steps to the pay bands.

13. Member from a small area and wonders what classifications the cuts are most likely to affect? – Sherri, Biggar.

The cuts being proposed will have a general effect upon everyone. The lower steps being proposed to all pay bands impact everyone. The proposed reductions to overtime affects everyone. The proposal for wage reduction would affect everyone. Cuts to standby and callback would likely effect more members within the technologist and trades/maintenance areas…but really, when you consider how much we rely on those services throughout the whole health care system…the would affect all of us. To summarize those classifications that participate in unsociable hours, weekend work, standby and callback would shoulder a disproportionate burden compared to those who work predominately a Monday to Friday, straight days schedule.

14. A member wishes to suggest that all members and managers should be treated equally with regard to cell phone reimbursement – Dorothy, Saskatoon.

In a completely fair world, that would be the case. But we don’t negotiate on behalf of the OOS managers. I think it’s fair to say, especially for those members like homecare staff, who rely on their cell phones as a way to get their clients scheduled – let alone many others who get call-in via text or cell – that it’s about equity when it comes to cell phone reimbursement.

15. There are SGEU members from the past and now with one Health Region, would they be given back those seniority hours with SEIU? Is there any way possible that they could increase the money for therapies and not specific to one practice? – Carmen, Swift Current.

For part one, if members were merged or voted to move to another union, under a Labour Relations Board vote, then they should have been able to take their seniority with them. But if they were with another union, quit and then came back to work as a SEIU-West member, then they likely won’t be able to get their seniority back.

For part two, we are always working on how to improve our extended health and dental benefits outside of collective bargaining. We normally don’t bargain the terms of the individual benefit plans. We have a benefits working group that meets regularly and in an effort to reinforce how important investing in and improving benefits. We are also aggressively seeking a joint trusteeship of our benefits plan…just like with our pension plan to ensure that the best possible benefit plans are provided within the resources allocated. That being said, benefit improvements are a work in progress, but I will pass this request onto our benefit working group members.

I was at the Rally to Reverse the Cuts on the front lawn of the provincial Legislature building on October 25, 2017. I spoke about respect for all health care workers and how we need to reverse the cuts to our public services. I shared your voices and your experiences; as a result, we will be setting up a meeting with the Minister of Health in December. But we need you to step up; we need you to contact your MLA – phone them, email them, set up a meeting to tell them what you have told me. Make sure that they know that without you, without your skills, without your work, health care will fall apart.

In Solidarity,

Barbara Cape
President, SEIU-West

Related Content:

President’s messages:
Oct 13: Virtual Town Hall Follow Up Part One and
Oct 17: Virtual Town Hall Follow Up Part Two
Oct. 24: Virtual Town Hall Follow Up Part Three

Health Care Provider Week:

Op-Ed: Health Care Provider Week
Celebrating Health Care Provider Week

Pages:
SAHO Bargaining Page
Extendicare Bargaining
Transformational Change Page

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President’s Message: Op-Ed – Health Care Provider Week

This Op-Ed appeared in the October 26, 2017 edition of the Southwest Booster on page A6

Dear Editor,

SEIU-West, along with other health care unions, has asked the Government of Saskatchewan to designate October 23 to 29 as Health Care Provider Week in Saskatchewan. As we continue to wait for Minister of Health, Jim Reiter’s reply, let’s reflect upon the state of our public health care system.Ad-Education-Week-Southwest-Booster-eigth-page-plus-HCP-Week2

Our government has initiated transformational change to our health care system. The biggest change would seem to be the decision to collapse twelve existing health regions into one province-wide health authority.

This consolidation doesn’t appear to have a clear plan or strategy for the improvement of health care services in our province beyond saving short-term dollars on governance boards. Unfortunately, the Government of Saskatchewan is without vision in this health care system as they also seek to reduce public sector compensation by 3.5%.

It makes our health care sector less attractive to people who bring incredible knowledge and skill to their work in the system and further frustrates our ability to attract and retain health care providers that we have been in need of for years. The fact that many may not know is that the hard to recruit list of hard to recruit healthcare classifications has grown since the SaskParty government took office and many of the careers that were on the list in 2010 are still there seven years later.

On top of this, we have experienced unsafe staffing levels, cuts to programs, hiring freezes and layoffs in a number of the existing health regions over the last year. This has caused great uncertainty and instability for all health care workers who move to other provinces in order to find stability and opportunities for career expansion.

Let’s face it. Working in health care is a job that changes every day. We work with human beings. We are an unpredictable creature. Every day brings new challenges, opportunities, heart ache, and triumph.

The people of Saskatchewan need health care services that are high quality and reliable. Unfortunately, this government has decided to discard essential pieces of our health care system without thought to the consequences on the system and sell them off to private companies who are in it for profit – not for the good of the people of Saskatchewan. Services like MRI’s or CT scans; surgeries; and lab testing transportation. This is an incredibly complex system that should be world-class, instead, we are struggling to deal with increased costs due to privatization and ill-advised Lean methodologies aimed at quality improvement.

Our health care system desperately needs adequate human resources to provide quality hands-on health care services. Every position is essential to providing patient and family focused health care in so many contexts. Whether it be Continuing Care Assistants (CCAs) caring for long term care residents; Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) providing bedside care; Medical Laboratory and Diagnostic Imaging Technologists informing treatment plans; Food Services workers making sure nourishment needs are met; Sterile Processing workers equipping the surgical suites; Tradespeople, Environmental Services workers, and Security staff ensuring our health care facilities are maintained, clean and safe.

Let’s hope that our Minister of Health takes the time next week to think about our incredible health care providers. How they have been the foundation on which our health care system operates.

I invite you to join healthcare workers who have reached out to Minister Reiter and their MLAs that patient first care requires safe staffing. Together let’s show our support to the incredible men and women who put our patients, clients and residents first and call on the Government of Saskatchewan to stop dismantling health care.

Barbara Cape
President, SEIU-West

 

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PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE: Virtual Town Hall Follow Up Part Three

As I sit with our bargaining committee, I am reminded that I didn’t introduce them to the members who joined us on the virtual town hall conference call. If you attended any of the roadshow meetings in August, you would have met some of the members of the bargaining committee, but here is my introduction of who they are:

  • Brenda Berry – CCA at Central Butte Regency Manor – Five Hills Health Region;
  • Judy Denniss – LPN at Saskatoon City Hospital – Saskatoon Health Region;
  • Simone Corriveau – Medical Lab Tech II at St. Paul’s Hospital – Saskatoon Health Region;
  • Kim Wyatt – Security Officer – Royal University Hospital – Saskatoon Health Region;
  • Rick Brown – Systems Analyst – Royal University Hospital – Saskatoon Health Region;
  • Charlene Sarafin – LPN at Saskatoon Homecare – Saskatoon Health Region;
  •  Colleen Denniss – CCA – Rose Villa – Heartland Health Region;
  • Donna Gallant – Drug Distribution Tech – Five Hills Health Region;
  • Janice Platzke – SEIU-West Treasurer & Food Services Worker, Cypress Health Region;
  • Cam McConnell – Northern Negotiations Officer, SEIU-West;
  • Russell Doell – Deputy Director of Contract Bargaining and Enforcement, SEIU-West;
  • Bob Laurie – Director of Contract Bargaining and Enforcement, SEIU-West; and
  • Barbara Cape – Cook at Extendicare Parkside & SEIU-West President.

These are front line health care workers who not only share their experiences in their workplaces, but everyone on this committee has hands-on experience with what is happening in our health care system.

Onto the next series of questions (these are continued from the Oct 13 and Oct 17 posts):

8. Are they proposing to take away health benefits (dental, eyeglasses, etc) – Linda, Shaunavon.

There is no proposal to take away current benefits. And in fact, there have been some modest increases to some of our benefits recently. What is being proposed by SAHO and the government of Saskatchewan is a contribution holiday, for the employer, on their required contributions to the Extended Health and Dental (EHD) Plan to reduce the surplus in our plan…to a point. They are also proposing that members co-pay 25% of the benefit contributions which is another rollback.

9. In past bargaining tables, monetary items are discussed at the end of bargaining, have the non-monetary items been concluded? – Carrie, Saskatoon.

No they have not. You describe the past process correctly, but this round has been odd from the very start, with the Minister of Finance’s ‘invitation’ for front line workers to take -3.5% (a direct and obvious intrusion in the negotiation process by government). We are also facing their arbitrary deadlines imposed on us to get a tentative agreement. We had begun to work on the non-monetary items specific to SEIU-West (as did CUPE and SGEU), however SAHO pushed to get the health care coalition to a common table where monetary items are usually dealt with, before we had finalized those issues.

10. Is bargaining right now hearing any risk to pensions? – Barb, Rockglen.

There is no discussion at bargaining regarding pensions. Remember, SHEPP (Saskatchewan Healthcare Employees’ Pension Plan), is a jointly trusteed plan; with representatives from both union-side and employer-side.

11. Is the rollback at 1% and is there any wiggle room to move them down more? – Dave, Saskatoon.

The general wage decrease currently being proposed by SAHO is a 1% reduction. The process of bargaining is to try to find that ‘wiggle room’. As well as other reductions and cuts, it amounts to about -3.65%. Keep in mind that this is only what SAHO/Government of Saskatchewan has proposed…we don’t accept that any cuts or rollbacks; we don’t accept them because it is disrespectful of the incredible work and skill of our front line experts…YOU!

If you want to stand against these cuts, if you want to voice your objection, then come to the rally with workers from across the province at the Legislature in Regina on October 25. Register for the bus by going to this link actions@seiuwest.ca.

We need your voice, your strength, your solidarity and your continued engagement.

In solidarity,

Barbara Cape
President, SEIU-West

Related Content:

President’s messages:
Oct 13: Virtual Town Hall Follow Up Part One and
Oct 17: Virtual Town Hall Follow Up Part Two

Pages:
SAHO Bargaining Page
Extendicare Bargaining
Transformational Change Page

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PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE – Health Care Bargaining Update

Greetings Sisters and Brothers,

Your SEIU-West bargaining committee met with our coalition partners, CUPE, SGEU and SAHO for three days in Moose Jaw this week.

Before we get too far into the details, we want to salute our members at Leader Hospital and Western Seniors Home in Leader. This week the town of Leader was evacuated because of the grass fires spreading across southwest Saskatchewan due to hurricane force winds. These members assisted with the safe evacuation of residents and patients from Leader to Swift Current. Thank you all for your incredible patience, skill and dedicated efforts in the care of residents of Leader. I would also like to thank the first responders, volunteers, RCMP, firefighters and all those who worked so hard to get the wildfires under control. Thanks to everyone for their dedication in service.

We had a fair bit of discussion with SAHO this week. We are still some ways apart in our positions. Your SEIU-West bargaining committee has continued to push the message you have sent us – NO cuts, NO rollbacks, Pay us what we’re Worth! And Treat us with Respect! However, at this point, it does not appear that the Government of Saskatchewan is feeling enough pressure to move off the rollback of 3.5%. So we need you to amplify the message and add more pressure by contacting your elected MLA so that we can get this mandate changed. Find your MLA by visiting: http://www.legassembly.sk.ca/mlas/. Lost for words? Here is a letter template for your use: http://bit.ly/2rLB9FQ.
We have now (this week) developed a set of principles that underline the priorities for our members and the full range of professional skills we bring to health care. Our principles include things like: a reasonable general wage increase, joint trusteeship of our benefits plans and no employee co-pay of Extended Health and Enhanced Dental Benefits plan premiums. We want security of our union representation rights and our collective agreements as we move to a single health region and a ‘me too’ clause for any future public sector union bargained improvements that the provider unions did not get. We still have workload and short-staffing issues our SEIU-West members have identified that need to be addressed.

The response from SAHO and the Government of Saskatchewan was they believe that what our members told us they need in a Collective Agreement is not acceptable. They asked that we re-examine our proposals. We continue to reiterate that our members are serious in their demands for safety and fairness in the workplace, in their demand for the removal of the regressive and punitive Government proposals as well as about protecting our health care system and the quality of service we provide to our patients, clients and residents each day. Let’s face it – we cannot provide patient first health care services if the Government and SAHO continue to put us last!

We do need your help to get the attention of our Government about changing this mandate. As we have asked before – and we will keep asking – call your MLA, send an email, ask for a meeting. Tell them how serious you are and how serious this round of bargaining is. Let them know how they seriously need to change the current mandate. Please watch the website and Facebook for future updates.

We encourage you to share your questions and concerns about bargaining with your SEIU-West bargaining committee by contacting us through the Member Resource Center (MRC) at 1-888-999-7348 Ext 2298 or contact us through the “contact us” form on SEIUWEST.ca.
In Solidarity,

Barbara Cape: President of SEIU-West & member of the Bargaining Committee

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PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE: Virtual Town Hall Follow Up Part Two

I want to continue to share the questions from our recent virtual town hall meetings. And as I do that, I want to point out an interesting piece of information: these questions are focused on the health care sector, but our education sector is being pressured to accept these cuts as well.

Think about this: the provincial government cut tens of millions of dollars from the education sector budget and is looking to find these savings by eliminating the positions of front line Education Assistants, bus drivers, maintenance and custodial staff, cafeteria staff and Administrative assistants. These are the very people who, through their actions, help teach our children strong values, fairness and achievement! Eliminating essential positions in any sector is a short sighted response and will ultimately defeat our ability to attract people to our province.

I was at a recent rally in front of Warren Michelson’s office (Moose Jaw Sask Party) protesting the cuts to the education sector with CUPE members and his response to the message to ‘reverse the cuts in the education sector’ was to claim that, while it was a tough budget, it was done so that future generations weren’t saddled with debt. We already know that argument is so full of holes even the Sask Party no longer runs the Brad Wall “Tim Horton’s lineup” ad. We all realize that the reversal of corporate taxes breaks could have assisted with that; the proper stewardship of our finances and resources could have assisted with that; even some oversight on Bill Boyd’s activities could have assisted with that… but instead, this government has determined to create a head tax on front line education workers (and all public sector workers) to shoulder a debt that we had no part in creating!

I am outraged at the sacrifices we are all being asked to make, while politicians willfully ignore the impact of the decisions they make.

Now, onto the next series of questions from the virtual town hall: (these are continued from the Oct 13 post)

4. How much do the increments affect part-time people? – Helen, Humboldt.

In SAHO’s proposal regarding the two lower pay bands, they indicated that it wouldn’t affect current staff, but would only affect those new staff hired after the Collective Agreement is signed… if it was agreed to.

5. How much does the government want employees to pay into the benefit plan? – Kara, Moose Jaw.

What is being proposed is 25% of benefit contributions would be paid by individual employees. Now the specific amount is different for each person, as our collective agreement sets out that funding for the Extended Health and Dental Plan is set at 3.1% of payroll. But further to this, think about it this way: we negotiated that percentage for EHD in previous years; we gave up other proposals, and monetary increases in past rounds of bargaining in order to get (and keep) this funding amount…so we’ve already paid for this EHD funding… I don’t think we should have to pay for it again via a co-pay of 25% of benefit contributions!

6. If the date goes by and we haven’t settled can the government impose their will with regard to cutbacks, etc? – Terry, Moose Jaw.

The Sask Employment Act (SEA) sets out that an employer can issue a last offer to a union, which would trigger a vote of the membership on that final offer. If it’s not an offer that we think is good, your SEIU-West bargaining committee would likely recommend against it. But you would still have a vote – and be able to decide. While other provincial governments have attempted to legislate collective agreement terms, most of these laws are challenged in the courts as violating the unions right to collective bargaining. To date, no provincial government has successfully legislated roll back terms for a collective agreement.

7. If they’re going to have smaller health division, the southeast corner is going to be shafted because they already are. It doesn’t make any sense. It didn’t work before, why will it now? I don’t feel we should be paying for MR. Wall’s mistake. – Kathy, Langham.

Well, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) will be a province-wide health region, essentially. (This is the same model that Alberta and Nova Scotia went to). There will be ‘integrated service areas’ that outline general service areas where primary care teams will operate as outlined in the map.ISA Map

I think we need to be aware that local, rural voices are being severely scaled back on their input into the direction of the SHA. With the integrated service areas, there may be some local working groups…but this has not been finalized. SEIU-West has reached out to towns and rural municipalities across the province to raise our concerns about the provision of funding and local health care services and make sure they are aware of future changes to the health system.

Thanks for your interest in these updates and the huge importance for all of us to support public sector workers – and workers in general – who are paying a huge price for these changes to funding, governance, and service provision. I’m proud of the engagement that our members have shown by reaching out to our elected MLAs…but the message is still the same, we need each of you to take the time to make one phone call, write one email, or better yet, set up a meeting with your MLA to talk about your job and why it’s important to our community and what a negative impact a -3.5% cut would have.

Together, let’s keep our message strong – NO cuts – NO rollbacks – PAY US what we are worth – TREAT US with respect! We need to step up the pressure and hold our politicians accountable for the decisions they make…and they made the decision to put this in front of the bargaining table.

Don’t forget to check in for the October 25 rally at the Legislature to Reverse the Cuts to public services… we need all of you there! There will be a free bus ride in it for you!

In Solidarity,
Barbara Cape
President, SEIU-West

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PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE: Virtual Town Hall Follow Up Part One

On September 27 & 28, SEIU-West held a virtual townhall which was a province wide teleconference for all our SAHO and Extendicare members. The purpose was to provide a status update on provincial health care negotiations with SAHO and our health region employers.

We have bargained on a number of dates, most recently a 10 day marathon scheduled from Sept 14 to 24. As well, SEIU-West had also spent the month of August travelling throughout the province to talk with our members to provide an update and get feedback.

The response to the townhall was incredible and I want to thank those of you who joined us. This is new technology for us and I believe it was useful to broaden our reach with our members. For those data nerds among us, we reached a total of over 1400 attendees on our 7 pm call on Sept. 27 and for our 2 pm call on Sept. 28, we reached a total of over 900 attendees.

We didn’t get to all of the members questions on the calls, so what I’d like to do over the course of the next few days is set out the questions and provide responses. There might be some repetition from the call, but it will help to repeat the answers.

  1. With regard to paybands going (one up and one down) have they considered adding more than one step at the top end? – Candice, Saskatoon. The short answer to this is no, we haven’t considered adding 2 steps at the top end. Partly because we’ve developed the pay band structure within the JJE Pay Equity Plan and there hasn’t been a great number of members looking to add more steps to the pay bands. However, members have certainly indicated that they want to see general wage increases applied to the current pay bands!
  2. Do they know if the government wants to centralize scheduling out of the rural areas and into urban? – Jeremy, Harris. We have had no clear statement that government is looking for that level of centralization within the new Saskatchewan Health Authority. On the townhall call, we talked about how many different call-in systems are at play in the province; there’s a different system in each RHA and there is likely a split between urban and rural. With that being said, with a new provincial health region, we fully expect that there would be some streamlining of the call-in processes and that would include some work around scheduling. But the specifics of this, we do not know.
  3. Do they not realize we are going to have a harder time recruiting in rural Sask with the change in pay bands? – Tina, Nokomis. We would have a hard time recruiting all over the province! Whether it’s urban or rural, we can’t find staff to recruit into health care. If you are in the trades, nursing, food services, techs…you name it…we are competing with private companies, other provinces and quite simply, it’s a challenge to get the trained, skilled workforce that we need…and that’s at the current rates, let alone if there were 2 lower pay bands! But let me be very clear, this direction is coming from the Government of Saskatchewan in order to save money in health care. I don’t think they know (or care) how it gets done, they are bound and determined to save health care $$$ on the backs of front line health care workers…and what we have heard over and over is that our members will not stand for it!!

We’ll have some more questions posted tomorrow, but remember: NO cuts – NO rollbacks – PAY US what we are worth – TREAT US with respect.

There is a rally coming up on October 25 at the Legislature building in Regina…there are free buses from all over the province to take you there. Bring your neighbours, your families and your friends…we need to stand together and fight back on this proposal. For more details, check our website at www.seiuwest.ca

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President’s Message: Transformational Change – The Mystery surrounding the new Provincial Health Authority

I have spent the better part of the summer in bargaining or on the road, meeting with a number of members in the health care sector. A common question that keeps reverberating through these meetings from all of our members is: what is the plan with the new provincial health authority?

It’s a given that everyone in Saskatchewan will be impacted by ‘the plan’ as we all access health care services at one point or another in our lives. But further to that, this grand experiment also has the potential for setting the standard within other sectors, like education.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) will be established ‘some time’ this fall. Currently, there is not a lot of detail being shared by the Transition Team as they are working on recommendations for the new SHA board. Their work includes consultation with health care unions, the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA), First Nations and Metis leaders, and front line staff. The consultations don’t seem to be in-depth or extensive.

‘The plan’ includes centralized services in lab, supply chain, IT, and other service areas. But what that centralized service looks like in our health care facilities and to patients, clients, and residents is unclear at this time. We do not know whether there will be staff reductions via layoff or attrition. We have asked this repeatedly and continue to await the answers. We know that there is a drive to create integrated service areas throughout the province, but again, the details are less than clear as this work is all ‘in progress’ and if we do see any info, it is only recommendations at this point.

Members are concerned about their jobs, the effect on their communities, their patients, clients, and residents, rural facility closures and the status of their union. Members are looking for clear answers about how this new health authority will change their current working lives. There is no clear answer about this. The Transition Team is focused only on getting the SHA to ‘Day One’ of operations; but we are all looking for answers for ‘Day 21’ or ‘Day 201’ (and beyond).

What I do know is that SEIU-West is working with CUPE and SGEU health service providers to develop a formal process, like a bargaining association, so that we can maintain our individual unions while still creating opportunities and security for our members to move throughout the province for work. We recognize that we have skills and knowledge that we can share and build on for our members and that is a credible strength. The coalition of health service provider unions, SEIU-West, CUPE, SGEU, have a long history together – both through good times and bad – that we intend to continue to improve and strengthen. We believe that this is in the best interests of our memberships.

This new SHA is a monumental change in the way health care is structured and, likely, delivered in this province. I cannot stress enough the importance of recognizing, valuing and capitalizing on the front line expertise that all of our members bring to the work of health care.

As we know more, we will continue to provide updates to all of our members.

In Solidarity,

Barb Cape, SEIU-West President

 

Click for a printable PDF of this President’s message.

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Celebrate Nursing Week: May 8-14!

Your SEIU-West President, Barb Cape, wrote a message in recognition of National Nursing Week 2017:

Licensed Practical Nurses and Continuing Care Assistants – vital to health care – essential players in the nursing team.

In our busy health care system, we see men and women in scrubs moving past us all the time. Whether it’s in our community hospital, nursing home or home care environment, the members of your public health care team want you to get the care you need when you need it.Ads-SW-Booster-QUARTER-page-Nursing-Week-2017

Nursing week gives us a chance to get to know all of the players on our nursing team, how they work to benefit you and your family. We want you to know that behind those scrubs, there are different skills, knowledge and talents working to provide world-class health care to the people of Saskatchewan.

The role of the Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) has expanded over the last two decades as a direct result of LPN program changes in our province. The intense school-based knowledge of the LPN lends to their practical placement where those skills can be put to work and in an environment that hones a high level of professionalism. LPNs have a regulated profession and an extremely concentrated medical training over two years that sets a high standard all across Canada. They are licensed, trained professionals who continue to build their skill and knowledge to benefit their patients, clients and residents. LPNs work in operating rooms, long term care facilities, emergency rooms, home care and public health offices. They bring compassion, integrity, knowledge and teamwork to our public health care team.

Continuing Care Assistants (CCAs) have expanded the scope of their skills over the last two decades as well. Once called ‘Nurse Aides’, they have built a body of knowledge and professionalism with increasing levels of skill and experience. Their formal training provides them with foundational medical knowledge, and their engagement with patients, clients and residents gives them the hands-on lens which contributes to the larger picture of the whole health care team. Together, this team works seamlessly to care for you and your loved ones. proclamation-CCA_Day

Within our provincial health care system, there are far too few nursing teams and front line workers of all stripes. Running to provide care is becoming a standard operating procedure. As a province, we need to recommit to investing in our health care system so that we have enough people in scrubs to keep you and your loved ones comfortable, informed, and healthy by providing the professional care you need, when you need it.

LPNs and CCAs in your community are united by one union, SEIU-West, and one colour, purple. Find out more about your public health care team by visiting www.purpleworks.ca.proclamation-LPN_Day

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President’s Message: Nursing Week 2017

Licensed Practical Nurses and Continuing Care Assistants – vital to health care – essential players in the nursing team.

In our busy health care system, we see men and women in scrubs moving past us all the time. Whether it’s in our community hospital, nursing home or home care environment, the members of your public health care team want you to get the care you need when you need it.

Nursing week gives us a chance to get to know all of the players on our nursing team, how they work to benefit you and your family. We want you to know that behind those scrubs, there are different skills, knowledge and talents working to provide world-class health care to the people of Saskatchewan.

The role of the Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) has expanded over the last two decades as a direct result of LPN program changes in our province. The intense school-based knowledge of the LPN lends to their practical placement where those skills can be put to work and in an environment that hones a high level of professionalism. LPNs have a regulated profession and an extremely concentrated medical training over two years that sets a high standard all across Canada. They are licensed, trained professionals who continue to build their skill and knowledge to benefit their patients, clients and residents. LPNs work in operating rooms, long term care facilities, emergency rooms, home care and public health offices. They bring compassion, integrity, knowledge and teamwork to our public health care team.

Continuing Care Assistants (CCAs) have expanded the scope of their skills over the last two decades as well. Once called ‘Nurse Aides’, they have built a body of knowledge and professionalism with increasing levels of skill and experience. Their formal training provides them with foundational medical knowledge, and their engagement with patients, clients and residents gives them the hands-on lens which contributes to the larger picture of the whole health care team. Together, this team works seamlessly to care for you and your loved ones.

Within our provincial health care system, there are far too few nursing teams and front line workers of all stripes. Running to provide care is becoming a standard operating procedure. As a province, we need to recommit to investing in our health care system so that we have enough people in scrubs to keep you and your loved ones comfortable, informed, and healthy by providing the professional care you need, when you need it.

LPNs and CCAs in your community are united by one union, SEIU-West, and one colour, purple. Find out more about your public health care team by visiting purpleworks.ca.

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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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