Follow Up from the May 28 VTH: Afternoon Session Questions

Below are answers to the questions we were not able to answer live due to time constraints as well as some we thought should be included that were answered live during the call.

As always, if you have questions regarding the status of bargaining or a question about your SEIU-West collective agreement, contact our Member Resource Centre (MRC) 1-888-999-7348 ext. 2298 or use our website contact form

As a recap, here's an overview of what happened during the virtual telephone town hall:

Barbara Cape provided this summary of what has occurred in bargaining.

About a year ago, we brought out a tentative agreement for our members to vote on. We didn’t make any recommendations on whether to accept or reject it – we left the decision in the hands of the membership. Ultimately, our members rejected the tentative agreement. The primary reason for this rejection was clearly communicated to the bargaining committee….the monetary package was inadequate.

We continued to bargain, including undertaking voluntary mediation, until it was clear that SAHO had no authority or mandate from the Government of Saskatchewan to address the outstanding issues of our members. In December, we came to our members asking for a job action mandate and you gave us overwhelming direction that you were in favour of that strategy. We advised SAHO and subsequently, they came back with a proposal for us to consider. The proposal was a lump sum payment – described informally by the employer as being between zero and $500, in exchange for agreement that we withdraw an outstanding unfair labour practice and agreement that we change our seniority system from the current system of accumulating earned hours to one based on date of hire.

Talks broke down when we tabled a proposal to SAHO that included a Health/Lifestyle spending account into the collective agreement; an education/training fund; medical verification notes requested by the employer being paid for by the employer and increasing premium pay from four days to five, when the posted and confirmed work schedule is changed by the employer due to emergency circumstances. This proposal did not include giving up our seniority system. 

When SAHO was done delivering a message that we were bargaining in bad faith, that they were beyond disappointed and that they did not believe we were trying to achieve a collective agreement, they did the virtual equivalent of walking out of the room and slamming the door: they hung up on us and kicked us out of the video conference.

Then Bob Laurie set out the next steps required under the Saskatchewan Employment Act:

We would like to you to know that it is the opinion of the bargaining committee that the Saskatchewan Health Authority or SAHO do not have any real authority to conclude negotiations on our collective agreement. They made it clear they report to the government of Saskatchewan’s various ministries for their direction. The Government of Saskatchewan has indicated they do not want to put more money into bargaining to settle this agreement.

Right now, negotiations are at a standstill because SAHO and the employer group has refused to bargain with the union unless we are prepared to put forward a proposal that would meet with their favour, prior to any further negotiations. We have written to the SAHO group to demand clarification about the conditions regarding bargaining they have set. Depending on their response, we may have reached the point where a collective agreement cannot be achieved. Should that be the case, we would then need to embark upon the process set out when the parties are at an impasse.

There needs to be notice served that impasse has been reached. There needs to be a separate notice that sets out, what essential services must be maintained in the event of a strike or lockout.

Then there is a requirement to participate in mediation or conciliation, mandatory this time with the mediator or board of conciliation appointed by the Ministry of Labour. If mediation and conciliation is not successful (either the recommended terms of settlement are not acceptable to either one of the parties or there are no recommended terms of settlement proposed) and get a report from the conciliator before a one or 2 week cooling off period prior to serving 48 hours strike notice. 

There is also a provision in the Sask Employment Act that sets out no strike or lockout can occur unless there is an essential services agreement between the parties. There is a list set out in the act that identifies what an essential services agreement must consist of.

Briefly, the agreement must identify the essential services (not workers) that are needed, the classifications of employees who would provide essential services the number of positions needed, where those positions would be needed, and the way to let which employees know they need to report to work, taking into account employees who could provide the service and are not members of the bargaining unit.

Of course, there is language that sets out what might happen if the parties cannot negotiate an essential services agreement. An essential services tribunal must be struck, they must hear representations by the parties regarding essential services and then they must make a decision on what essential services would be required to be maintained during any strike or lockout. 

If, because of the provision of essential services that must be maintained, the strike or lockout is not effective, either party can appeal to the tribunal for decision that essential services agreement has interfered with the exercise of the right to strike or lockout. If the tribunal agrees then we can move to mediation – arbitration to conclude a collective agreement. All of these actions are legally required and, as you can imagine, will take some time.

Because they are legally required, we can’t simply serve notice and walk off the job without an essential service agreement. The government’s legislation sets out the penalties if we should do so. Individual members can face fines of $2000 for the first day and $400 for each day after that. The union would get a fine of $50,000 for the first day and $10,000 for each day after that if we fail to comply with the legislation. It’s not like the ‘old days’ or as simple as the President or the Bargaining committee saying when we commence job action.

Q: Janice - 'Why are we negotiating for a five year contract? All... most other unions in the province are 4 year. Also, why are we not fighting for 2-2-2-2 like what others have settled on? What a disgrace!!

Most of the other unions in the province, whether they are health care or crowns or government sector have negotiated at least a 5 year agreement with the same mandate of 0%/0%/1%/2%/2%. I’m aware that SGEU PSGE (government employees) ratified an agreement of 6 years: 0%/0%/1%/2%/2%/2% but there are particular details about how those amounts are spread out in the collective agreement that need to be considered.

Within the Crown sector (Sasktel, Saskpower, etc) the period of time being negotiated for was slightly different, but the mandate was the same. There were some improvements that went towards increases (or the establishment of) towards flexible health/lifestyle spending accounts, which is what we’re trying to establish for our healthcare members.

Q: “Seiu member for years” - Why do all members not receive these meeting notifications?

We send out a mass call out to all members that we have information for who haven’t opted out of these calls. You can update your information by going to our ‘contact' link on the website or calling the MRC at 1-888-999-7348 Ext 2298.

Q: Chelsea - Are wage increases off the table. I have a lot of staff asking?

They aren’t off the table, we are still faced with the Government of Saskatchewan mandate of 0%/0%/1%/2%/2%.

Q: Gordon - I am retiring on June 6th will I get back pay if we actually get a raise.

As part of negotiation of the monetary package, we regularly negotiate for those who’ve retired during the life of the agreement to receive retroactivity. It’s our intention to do this same this time.

Q: Wanda - When do we go on strike?

Wanda, the short answer is we can go on strike when we have met all the legal requirements. As we explained during the short presentation during the townhall, we are getting clarity on this process from our legal counsel. Right now, bargaining is at a standstill because SAHO and the employer group has refused to bargain with the union unless we are prepared to put forward a proposal that meets with their approval!

Should SAHO refuse to bargain, we would then need to embark on what is the process when one of the parties refuses to participate, we believe the process would be quite similar to when the parties reach impasse; notice would need to be served including setting out what are the essential services required.

Then it’s mandatory conciliation with a mediator appointed by the Minister of Labour Relations. If that’s not successful, then we serve a one or two week cooling off period after receiving a report, prior to serving 48 hour strike notice.

But there’s also a provision in The Sask Employment Act that no strike or lockout can occur unless there’s an essential services agreement between the parties. So we would have to negotiate that as well. This process takes some time, but we’ve already begun surveying our members to get the details of their work to inform the essential services process.

This process hasn’t been used in health care to date, so we don’t have any experience around the timelines associated with this process.

Q: Diane - Former member and steward and I just want to express my support for SEIU and the members. and I support Bob ..and want to show support to all

Thanks Diane!

Q: Val - I think that the CUPE members are commenting that SEIU members are greedy and I think we should go on strike

I’m not aware of any CUPE members commenting in that regard. However, I can say that we have been in regular contact with both CUPE and SGEU to let them know how bargaining is going and share our frustration with SAHO and the Government of Saskatchewan.

Q: Sheree - There is talk of my position going out of scope if i am forced out of scope what would happen with retro for me?

Sheree, in scope positions are part of the joint job evaluation plan, and cannot be moved out of scope. If the employer wants to move your position out of scope, they would have to create an out of scope position. If the employer were eliminating your in scope position, they would have to negotiate with SEIU-West regarding organizational change and reorganization of work. Alternatively, you may receive a layoff notice which will allow you to access your bumping options to remain in an in scope position. As long as you remain in scope, and a member of SEIU-West, you will receive retro pay. If you were to voluntarily give up your in scope position and apply for and get the out of scope position, you would no longer qualify for retro under the collective agreement. That being said, if we negotiated retroactivity, SEIU-West would attempt to negotiate retro for that period of time you were in scope during the collective agreement.

Q: Christina & Darcy - Why doesn't the public know that SUN got 1500 dollars for a bonus... that is because your union doesn’t tell the public... take the effort and tell the public don't sit back and say nothing

The last agreement negotiated by SUN for the period beginning April 1, 2014, had the following monetary provisions: All FT employees received a lump sum payment of $800 on April 1, 2014 (prorated for other than full time); and a lump sum payment for $800 on April 1, 2015 (again, prorated for other than full time) – in each of those years there were 0% increases. On both April 1, 2016 and April 1, 2017, there were 1.5% general wage increases applied. SUN is currently negotiating renewal of the collective agreement beyond March 31, 2018.

During those same periods of time, SEIU-West members saw a general wage increases applied as follows: 2014: 1.5%; 2015: 1.55%; 2016 1.95%. We are currently negotiating for the collective agreement starting in 2017.

As a general rule, we don’t advertise for what other unions are able to negotiate.

We are currently under a communications ban because we have agreed not to bargain in the press, however depending on what comes out from the legal discussions, we will take appropriate actions to let the public know what is the state of bargaining for our members.

Q: Dawn - Why does the union not want to go seniority wise by date of hire?

We don’t make that call, but leave it up to our members. To date, the vast majority of members have indicated their strong preference for an hours based seniority system where each hour you work goes towards your overall seniority. But keep reading to the next question for a member’s perspective!

Q: Patricia - Please do not approve of date of hire seniority because in my opinion anyone who worked hard for three years will lose out to someone who got hired first but barely worked. Thank you Bargaining Committee for doing everything you can.

Thanks for your feedback Patricia.

Q: Cecelia - Re Unions being unable to strike due to fines - is this for all unions or only ours and are we able to protest somehow anyway?

During Bob Laurie’s presentation, he referenced the Essential Services fines and penalties under The Sask Employment Act. We are legally required to jump through the hoops set out in The Sask Employment Act, so we can’t just serve notice and go on strike. The penalties to do so for individual members are $1000 for the first instance and $400/day after that. The Union would get a fine of $100,000 for the first instance and $10,000/day after that.

These fines are for all unions who are subject to the essential services provisions of The Sask Employment Act – like health care.

Q: Chelsea - Weren't essential services determined based on what is happening during the pandemic? The money has been spent trying to manage the pandemic - it would be disrespectful to ask for more now.

It’s easy to get a bit confused because of the term essential services, but no, the essential services required during the pandemic are not the same as required under The Sask Employment Act (SEA). Those have to be negotiated.

And respectfully, I disagree that it’s disrespectful to ask for more – members have been clear about the impact of the increase to the cost of living on their pocket books. And our politicians have given themselves regular cost of living increases – why aren’t essential frontline staff given that same recognition?

Q: Nancy - package was to include health and lifestyle spending acc’t and an education fund would it be any help to say we will drop those but ask those zeros to be removed?

SAHO, the employer and the Government of Saskatchewan have remained firm that 0%/0%/1%/2%/2% is the mandate – this has been settled on with other public sector unions, like CUPE, SGEU and UNIFOR.

We are trying to get something more for our members to address those things that take a bite out of a paycheque; something to help expand your education or access to a health and lifestyle spending account that our OOS managers, Directors, and senior leadership receive…we think that’s a fair compromise. This doesn’t stray from the settlements that were achieved by other public sector unions.

Q: Theresa - Why isn't gov’t recognizing CCAs? And without a raise we are funding the pandemic because the workload has tripled and cost of living is skyrocketing.

Actually, the Government of Saskatchewan did acknowledge CCA’s and designated May 12 as CCA day and May 13 as LPN day when SEIU-West wrote to ask them to do so.

Unfortunately, it was the Chief Nursing Officer of the SHA who didn’t seem to realize the vast group of members who make up part of the nursing team and provide the majority of hands on care! We’ve written her and the SHA to point out the impact on the morale of the CCA’s across the province and that they need to do better to recognize all members of the health care team going forward. And we agree that the cost of living effects health care workers just like it effects your MLAs…we just need to get the gov’t to understand that.

Q: Lady Morales - I am hearing that the employer is not wanting to deal with us and its time to take action and we mean business lets go on strike

You are hearing correctly! We have already begun the process to follow through on this legally and ensure that we comply with The Sask Employment Act and essential service requirements.

Q: Brian - Is the government using the pandemic as a bargaining tool and should we all just call in sick since striking would have a penalty?

From my perspective, I’m not seeing that government is using the pandemic as a tool in bargaining. That being said, every front line health care worker knows that the landscape has changed for what is acceptable to settle for.

I cannot counsel anyone to use calling in sick as a bargaining tactic. If you are sick, then don’t come to work, but using sick time as a strike tactic would also have a penalty.

Q: Pamela - Are we the only one of the 3 unions that don't have a contract and did CUPE sign and get a bonus. Is it also because SUN doesn't have a contract we don't have one.

CUPE and SGEU accepted the tentative agreement 1 year ago. There was no signing bonus for either.

SUN is still in bargaining and has filed an unfair labour practice against SAHO. But I don’t know if this has any bearing on the status of our bargaining.

Q: Nathan - Why did SEIU not know the details of the Essential Services Act before we voted? We should have had this info it would have changed the results of the vote.

We shared this information in many different forums over the last year: we’ve talked about it on our virtual townhalls & membership meetings before the vote on the tentative agreement a year ago; we talked about it during the virtual townhalls and membership meetings before the job action vote in December. We’ve also talked about essential services in our bargaining updates.

Q: Kevin - With the announcement that the Prime Minister has said Health care workers 26 dollars per hour and the Sask Party is going into an election this fall... perfect time for a strike... very frustrated... we are working with covid pts without N95 masks.

Thanks for your feedback Kevin. On the question of working without N95 masks with COVID patients, we strongly encourage you to review the PPE bulletins on the SHA Daily Rounds or the sasktchewan.ca/COVID-19 website and ensure that you are using the proper PPE for the situation. If you aren’t, talk to your manager immediately to ensure you get the PPE you need for the job.

Q: Peggy - I am retired ...I started at 10.25 and worked for 30 years and just retired at 23.00... would they work for that? use that with bargaining... if you need help give me a call for strikes!

Congratulations on your retirement Peggy! And thanks for the offer of solidarity and support. This information gets to the crux of why members are fighting so hard for a fair agreement that they can vote on.

On behalf of the SEIU-West bargaining committee, thanks to all our members who are staying focused and engaged on what is happening at the bargaining table. We cannot do this work without you. And whether the comments and questions were positive or critical, they are important for us to know what you are thinking and what our next steps need to be.

I’ll be posting more updates on the questions from the virtual townhall on May 28.

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

Barbara Cape
President, SEIU-West

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