President’s message

President’s message: Security in Health Care

About a month ago, we learned from our security officer members that the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) was launching a provincial security review process.

SEIU-West was not notified directly by the SHA.

The review process has been limited to a six day consultation period with front line security officers, and province-wide online survey of health system staff.

The speed of this process, and leading questions contained in the survey suggests that the SHA has a pre-determined outcome in mind: a cost-cutting process to reduce and privatize security services.

Our front line Security Officers who are trained and have experience in a wide variety of incidents that have occurred at Royal University Hospital (RUH), Saskatoon City Hospital (SCH), St. Paul’s Hospital (SPH) and Parkridge Center deserve to have the opportunity to provide more input into this process and we are committed to ensuring their voices are heard.

This review is being led by an out-of-province consultant, Tony Weekes. His work has led to increased use of under-trained private security guards. To our knowledge, there has been no Request for Proposals to seek out independent, non-biased, and experienced consultants with a full appreciation of the vital role played by security professionals in the health care team.

SEIU-West has reached out to the SHA to express our concern and skepticism about the direction of this review. We know that our Security Officers are trained, skilled professionals who are part of a health care team; they not only ensure the safety of our staff but also our patients, clients and residents. From site security for STARS air ambulance, to patrols, safe walks, to observations/interventions of safety risks and threat assessments, they work to ensure a safe care environment.

This is the expertise the SHA should be drawing on. A solution that is based on input from the people who live and work in this province; not a scheme to privatize essential pieces of our health care team.

We will fight back against any proposal to privatize this vital health care service.

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President’s Message: Recognize & Celebrate Nursing Week

Canadian Nursing Week is a great opportunity for us to recognize and celebrate all members of the nursing family who apply their skills to provide front line care!

Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) and Continuing Care Assistants (CCAs), provide hands on care, recognize patient needs, individual concerns, and work with the other skilled professionals to develop a plan to promote or maintain your health.

As patients, clients and residents, you recognize the incredible work that is done by our LPNs and CCAs when you are receiving care.

But each one of us needs to be aware that we have a responsibility to demand, and expect better staffing levels in order to receive the care we require.

Without safe staffing levels, LPNs and CCAs are literally running to provide care.

The evidence shows us that the need for safe staffing levels is long overdue.

WCB information shows us that the largest group of injured workers are CCAs and LPNs.

But those are the physical safety challenges that are easy to see and recognize.

The less visible mental health impacts of working every day in an unpredictable environment are more difficult to measure.

Not knowing if there will be enough staff on hand to complete the everyday routines, let alone a crisis situation, are issues that are dealt with by LPNs and CCAs every shift, every day, in every facility across the province.

If we can commit to safe staffing levels as a province, we will see these injuries decrease which will lead to more stable, safer care for clients, residents, and patients.

Health systems” are bureaucracies; focused on the nuts and bolts of the operations, budgets and funding.

But health care works to see the whole patient, client or resident; to bring them relief; to improve health outcomes; to ease suffering.

Health care is practiced by front line experts, like LPNs and CCAs, who see the needs, provide the care, and can plan improvements for the whole system that will benefits patients, clients and residents.

Safety in the health care system isn’t just crucial…it is priceless.

This Canadian Nursing week, join SEIU-West members in calling for safe staffing levels across our health care system!

Brenda-square“Being a CCA (Continuing Care Assistant) in long term care takes a very special kind of person. We care about our residents and always want to do our very best to improve their quality of life. This becomes even more difficult when we do not have adequate staffing levels to meet their ongoing needs.” – Brenda, CCA

Lisa-square“As an LPN, I am a proud member of your surgical team – providing and assisting with all aspects of patient care in the operating room, and advocating on behalf of patients when they are at their most vulnerable. I understand the value of having a strong health care team to meet patient needs and adequate staffing levels are key to the provision of safe care.” – Lisa, LPNContinuing Care Assistant Day-001_Page_2 Licensed Practical Nurse Day_Page_2

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President’s Message: A Message of Solidarity & Love

Our provincial psyche has been rocked this weekend with the horrific crash of the Humboldt Broncos bus; killing 15 and injuring 14. We’ve been blind-sided with the incomprehensible loss of life while doing an activity so many families and athletes have done for what seems like forever. For the families, friends and the communities of Humboldt, Nipawin and Tisdale, life will never be the same. As a union, we mourn their loss and recognize the long road of recovery for the injured and grief-stricken.

But I turn my mind to the countless workers who attended the scene; who work at local hospital emergency rooms and larger trauma centers; those who are managing the counselling services; the RCMP; the EMT’S and paramedics; doctors; nursing staff of all stripes; security officers; lab and diagnostic staff; unit clerks; and every single person who’s work in the health care system have put them in direct line with this event. I cannot comprehend the core of strength you have embedded in you to deal with the emergency, and yet shed tears with family and colleagues in the aftermath of the event. I am in awe.

There are emergencies every single day and each one is tragic in its own way. Maybe it’s the age of the victims; or the circumstance (hockey touches us all); or simply the magnitude; but this tragedy is beyond our experience and imagination.

To all of our members who’ve been working in the emergency rooms and ICU’s, your SEIU-West family salutes your strength, skill and incredible compassion. You have set aside your feelings in order to manage this situation to the highest level of skill possible; and yet your compassion has been such a gift to the families who have been impacted by this tragedy. Saying that you are in our thoughts and prayers seems like too little as we all tried to find answers and comprehend this event; but there are people surrounding you who are thinking about you every day, hoping you are alright, feeding you, praying for you and sharing their love with you.

We are here for you today, tomorrow and in the weeks and months to come. As one LPN said, ‘once the media and focus is gone, staff will begin their internal grieving and that’s when they’ll need support the most.’ We will need you to take care of yourself; access the Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP); contact your union for support and assistance.

We stand in solidarity with you and keep you in our hearts and minds.

We would also like to remind those who can to make an appointment to donate blood as it’s needed for all emergencies.

Barbara Cape

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President’s Message: SAHO Bargaining and Telephone Town Hall Follow Up – No. 2

Virtual town halls are a really good tool! Your bargaining committee is able to reach as many members as possible in the most time (and cost) efficient way possible. As a quick note, over 1000 members joined our call in the evening of February 21 and over 700 joined our call during the afternoon of February 22. Some members joined us online; some members only joined for about 15 minutes (the length of time of a coffee break?).

Further to our virtual town hall questions, here is the next round of Q and A from our members (click to read the first SAHO Bargaining and Telephone Town Hall Follow Up in this series):

#9: If we don’t luck out with this contract would a rollback be retroactive and what about if someone retires in the meantime? – Terry, location unknown.

We do not agree with any wage rollback. And further to that, we would not allow a rollback to be retroactive. For us, for our members, this is more than a slogan, it’s a fundamental principle that we will defend. Cuts and rollbacks contribute nothing to a progressive society; they do not promote a healthy and safe workplace; and they stop any ability to recruit and retain all of our skilled and professional healthcare workers.

Retirement provisions are based on a member’s best four (4) years…that wouldn’t change.

#10: When talking about this rollback… my husband and I both work for the health regions and my son worked for STC and lost his job… Can the question be asked of our politicians if their family had a reduction in pay to their family income would they survive? – Katherine, Saskatoon.

First, I’m truly sorry your son lost his job with STC. In my opinion, this was a public service that supported rural and remote communities, seniors, and so many more who needed the lift. The parcel service assisted businesses to thrive and helped in the transfer of medicine and lab specimens. No, it wasn’t a money maker, but that isn’t what its purpose was – it was a welcome support to the province everything should not be about making money – sometimes being a public good is the purpose!

That being said, I think you should contact your own MLA, and the Minister of Health, Jim Reiter, and ask that very question. When we’ve talked to the Minister of Health, he states that MLAs, Ministers; the heads of the Crown Corp have all taken a 3.5% cut to their salary. But the base salary for a MLA is $96,000/year… a 3.5% cut brings them down to $93,000/year…I think they’ll be able to pay their power bill! However a 3.5% cut to an average wage of $25/hour is a more direct hit to the pocket book and it is simply not affordable.

#11: Expenses have gone up so much, how can we live with a 3.5% reduction in pay? Will we be getting a fair living wage adjustment? – Tusit, Saskatoon.

Well, the short answer is that we can’t live with that 3.5% reduction… its brutally simple. This 3.5% reduction is to total compensation, so it’s not just wage reductions that are being contemplated, but any initiative that can reduce costs for the employer – and by extension the Government of Saskatchewan.

We are already in an environment where vacant shifts are not replaced and short staffing protocols are used routinely in the workplace. As a result we are running to provide care and services. How can we continue to do that and take a cut of 3.5%? We cannot.

#12: Re: JJE plan review, will continuing education be taken into account? – Kimberley, Saskatoon

Currently, continuing education is not factored into the JJE rating system… but the WHOLE plan will be reviewed to bring it up to date. We will be proposing that continuing education be a consideration in the education factor as a whole when rating jobs.

#13: A question about rollbacks: SaskPower has refused the rollbacks but will take ‘days off’…this has not been settled. Where are we on this? – Kevin, location unknown.

I am not aware that the staff of SaskPower have agreed to take days off – this might have been a proposal at their table. I do know that SaskPower put forward a package that would reach the 3.5% reduction but the members of one of the IBEW locals rejected this soundly. I do not know if they are back at the bargaining table.

The ‘days off’ proposed notion is still a rollback in our perspective. But further to this, it raises a number of questions about how services would be provided.

There is already chronic short-staffing and processes that do not replace staff on short term vacancy. Presently, there is no Employer (SAHO) proposal for unpaid days off.

#14: Does staying casual preserve these benefits while waiting for the process? – Sabrina, on-line.

I’m not sure what process is being referred to, but I’m going to work on the assumption that the process being referred to is the transition to the new SHA and the question of being co-employed between former RHA’s and between multiple unions. Staying casual should preserve your benefits and seniority. However, if you are having difficulties with your employer, we would strongly recommend that you call the MRC and arrange for a Leave of Absence (LOA) in order to formally preserve your benefits while this process is sorted out.

#15: is there an option to combine Family Illness Leave and Medical Care Leave into one bank so that the benefit is available for those who do not have a family to utilize Family Illness Leave for? – Shanna, on-line.

Family Illness Leave is provided for the following people: parent, spouse, brother, sister, child, common-law spouse, former guardian, fiancé, grandchild or someone with whom you have had a similar relationship. Also a host of in-laws, nieces, nephews and grandparents…check out article 15.08. It is distinct from medical care leave which is for the employee and it can be combined with sick leave for additional paid time off. If adequacy of medical care leave paid time off is an issue, please put this forward for the next round of bargaining.

#16: I would like to know, when will seniority transfer be provincial in nature? – Adrienne, Regina

We are currently working on this as part of our discussions around transition issues with the new SHA. We do not know exactly when this will be finalized. We are currently telling members that if they want to move to a different union jurisdiction, take a LOA from the position they are leaving in order to preserve benefits and seniority while this is dealt with.

We’ll have more updates in the next few days as well as an update on how bargaining has gone this week. Thanks for staying in touch and don’t forget to contact your MLA and the Minister of Health and the Minister of finance to add pressure to change this regressive mandate from 3.5% rollbacks.

If you have any questions about your workplace or collective agreement, don’t hesitate to contact the Member Resource Center at 1-888-999-7348 ext. 2298.

In solidarity,

Your SEIU-West Bargaining Committee.

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President’s Message: SAHO Bargaining and Telephone Town Hall Follow Up

We are starting a week of bargaining with our coalition partners, SGEU and CUPE, and SAHO. We remain hopeful that we can see a breakthrough in this process and be able to present a fair collective agreement to you for consideration. There is still a lot of change and instability within our health system as they transition to the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA); there is a provincial budget being delivered on April 10; and there are rumours of settlements within other areas of the public sector.

Our Provincial Contract Action Team (PROCAT) have been busy meeting in facilities across the province. Talking with members about the actions and activities they can do to build momentum during this round of bargaining. Sometimes bargaining feels like a ‘hurry up and wait’ situation, but there are a number of actions that our members can do to talk about bargaining in the workplace; share the issues within the community; write to the Minister of Health to talk about no cuts or rollbacks. If they haven’t been in your area yet, they will be planning to come out. If you want to set up a meeting, please contact Dennel Pickering at dennelp@yahoo.com.

On February 21 and 22, we held another set of telephone town halls with members from across the province. The turn-out was great, and the feedback was even better. The questions that you asked helped focus our work for this week. Today and in the coming updates, we’ll follow up on the remaining questions and answers for you.

Questions:

#1: Will there be a standardized seniority? (eg: CUPE uses date of hire and SEIU uses hours-based) – Patricia, location unknown.

Every member that I have talked to about seniority would rather keep our hours-based seniority system within SEIU-West. And quite likely, CUPE (date of hire) and SGEU (hours based) members would like to keep their systems. We believe there is a way to maintain the different seniority processes and still ensure that if a member moves to a different region, their seniority can be transferred with them. The issue of seniority is only one of many that we have to address in transitioning to the new SHA.

#2: Can you tell me why there are more jobs being reviewed by JJE when the process has not been completed yet through bargaining? – Jacqueline, Saskatoon.

The Joint Job Evaluation (JJE) plan is being reviewed in its entirety. The plan was established over 15 years ago and there hasn’t been a full review since. And while the plan is going to be reviewed, that doesn’t mean that their current work doesn’t continue. Actually conducting provincial job reviews will provide us with more information about where the plan needs to be improved.

Through bargaining, we have been able to negotiate a LOU that sets out, in the interim, that for jobs where the education factor change has reduced wages, the JJE plan will keep wages at their current rate; where the education factor change has increased wages, the JJE plan will implement those higher wages. In the meantime, the JJE Maintenance Committee will continue to review jobs, and the Committee of the Parties (COPs) will review all factors in the plan to make them more reflective of today’s job requirements.

#3: Wondering if pensions are going to be rolled back – wanting that to be a priority in terms of avoiding that and any wage rollbacks too – Wanda, Saskatoon.

There are no proposals around pension rollbacks. The Saskatchewan Healthcare Employee Pension Plan (SHEPP) is jointly trusteed by both employer and union representatives. Any changes to the pension plan would need to be agreed to by the Pension Trustees and the Pension Partners (also comprised of both employer and union representatives). Avoiding any reductions or rollbacks in both wages and pensions is a priority for your SEIU-West bargaining committee.

#4: We have not had a major wage increase in a long time. How can they even discuss taking things away from us? Tired of having to pay them to work – Elizabeth, location unknown.

The reason cuts and rollbacks are being contemplated by the government is because there is a deficit of $1.5 billion and rather than raising taxes or raising royalty rates, the government is trying to save money within the public sector by asking workers to cut their wages and compensation.

The Sask Party government thought health care workers would be so glad to keep on working they would accept all the cuts and rollbacks without any protest – boy, were they wrong! Members like you have been contacting their MLAs to tell them it’s not fair – it’s bad economic policy and raises a number of questions regarding free collective bargaining. And don’t think that it doesn’t matter – because when the MLA’s get pressure, they add pressure to the Minister of Health and the Premier about concerns from the public. We are asking our members to keep up the pressure and make this government understand how unfair their budget balancing plan is.

#5: How are we supposed to feed our families; educate ourselves to maintain our skills; and pay our bills in the midst of wage cuts?? – Helen, Humboldt.

That’s a brilliant question… and the short answer is I have no idea; these are the very same issues we have been raising at the bargaining table in the face of these cuts. My advice to you is that you need to call your MLA (find your MLA here) and ask him or her that very question. Regardless of whether they are SaskParty or NDP, our elected officials need to be listening to your concerns; they need to provide you with answers, and not some ‘spin’; and they need to take your concerns forward.

#6 Member feels that the government has a huge advantage with us chasing our tails discussing a 3.5% decrease instead of an increase. Any form of discussion on decreases is totally unacceptable, we should be talking about what size increase – Kari, Saskatoon.

We aren’t buying into this notion of the 3.5% reduction. Our members have said – and it’s become our mantra: “NO cuts, NO rollbacks, Treat Us With Respect and Pay Us What We’re Worth!” And we’ll stand by that message and stand by our members. With respect though, I disagree with the idea that government has a huge advantage, because they don’t have our members! Our members are stepping up to phone, email and visit their MLA to hold them accountable on the concessions in bargaining…they are helping to build pressure and momentum to change the mandate at the bargaining table.

#7: Is it possible to add to the bargaining to change family illness leave to family responsibility leave? Language like SUN – Debra, Beechy.

I would have to say that I don’t think that is likely at this point in the process. During our bargaining conference and through the bargaining surveys, this wasn’t identified as a priority for this round of bargaining. That being said, I know that many members keenly feel and see the difference in application of this language.

#8: What is happening with the 3.5% reduction in pay? – Zigerva, location unknown.

As far as we know, it may still be the mandate from the Government of Saskatchewan. But we have not accepted that health care workers should take cuts and rollbacks. Not when we are behind the cost of living. As I’ve mentioned before, our members have said ‘NO!’ to cuts, rollbacks and concessions. My challenge to you is to send a letter to your MLA through our campaign page.

Or, if you would prefer to call your MLA, you can find their contact information – listed by constituency – on the Legislative Assembly website (if you don’t know your constituency, you can look it up by entering your postal code on Elections Saskatchewan).

If you want to actually meet with your MLA, our Political Action & Education department is coordinating group meetings with MLAs. All you have to do is email actions@seiuwest.ca and we’ll work out a plan to get a meeting with your provincial representative.

Whichever way you choose to contact your MLA, be sure to let them know what you do as part of the health care team and how important your work as a health care providers is to your community. And after that, ask your partner/spouse; neighbours; friends and co-workers to do the same thing to provide us with the support and momentum to get their regressive mandate changed.

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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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