Re: Parties' Closing Arguments Regarding the SEIU-West Successorship Application
On September 29, the final arguments from SEIU-West, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (the SHA), CUPE and SGEU were heard by the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board (SLRB) on SEIU-West’s successorship application to continue to represent the members of SEIU-West at the Extendicare facilities in Moose Jaw, Saskatoon, and the three Extendicare facilities in Regina.
To recap, the Saskatchewan Health Authority had agreed it was the successor employer for the long term care facilities it purchased from Extendicare Canada Inc. SEIU-West applied to continue to represent its members in the five facilities, and after some hemming and hawing, the SHA decided it wanted CUPE to be the representative union and argued as much. CUPE argued that because they have jurisdiction within the former Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region, the three Regina Extendicare facilities should be transferred to them. SGEU agreed with SEIU-West’s application to continue to represent its members at the former Extendicare facilities.
In both our written and oral arguments, SEIU-West has argued that the historical application of the legislation regarding successorship and the continuation of a current union’s representation should be honoured. We argued that there has been too much turmoil and upheaval for our members at these facilities and that SEIU-West is the best choice to represent the members. Alternatively, should the SLRB determine, despite a history of representing our members for over 50 years, that there should be a vote by the members—then only the affected members at the three Regina Extendicare facilities should be eligible to vote.
The SHA’s closing arguments leaned heavily on the estimations of efficiency and potential savings that the employer wanted out of this process. They talked about the difficulty in working short staffed (like it’s a new thing), the staffing shortages during the pandemic, and the desire to be able to unilaterally move people around if there were similar staffing issues in the future. When asked if they could identify specific problems with the current representation model where SEIU-West represented members in the former Extendicare facilities, the SHA was unable to identify any problems other than it would just be easier and more efficient for the employer.
The closing arguments for CUPE referenced the assistance that CUPE members provided during the pandemic and highlighted this as a clear reason for CUPE to assume jurisdiction for the three Regina facilities. CUPE believed that the guidelines established under a previous round of healthcare restructuring should set the rules of this process, and in this instance, the SEIU-West members at the three Regina Extendicare homes would no longer be covered under the Extendicare CBA but be swept into CUPE.
SGEU agreed with SEIU-West’s position in that there was no compelling reason to upset the current labour relations landscape. It was concerning that if an Employer bought or took over a new business, the union that organized and represented the members would be swept aside and the members put in another union without any consultation or say in the matter.
At this point, the SLRB takes time to review the evidence, the legal arguments, the testimony, and the relevant legislation and regulations to determine their decision. We do not know when the SLRB will issue a decision, but SEIU-West remains committed to representing our Extendicare members and their Collective Agreement to the best of our ability.