Follow Up from the May 28 Virtual Town Hall: Unanswered 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

Click here to get an overview of what happened during the virtual telephone town hall before questions were asked and to see the answers to the afternoon session questions.

Click here to check out the questions that were answered during our evening session.

Q: Peggy - Looking at the COVID wage supplement today and anyone who works at a hospital cannot apply?!?!

The COVID wage supplement was not discussed or negotiated with the Unions before it was implemented. The Ministry of Finance rules are if you earn less than $24.00/hour; and less than $2500.00 month (gross, including non-essential work) and work in public/private senior care home; personal care home; community based group home; daycare; emergency shelter; transition shelter; integrated health facilities; or home care – you are eligible. As you rightly point out – if you work in a hospital, you are not eligible for the supplement even if you meet the financial criteria.

We believe that ALL healthcare workers and ALL essential workers should be getting recognition pay!

Let’s face it, $400 isn’t a lot – but it is a lot for people who are making terrible wages and having to cohort in a facility. That being said, across this country we need to be leading a campaign that for too many years, governments have been getting away with minimal increases and de-investment in the front line staff who keep health care, community based organizations and other essential sectors running. This has got to stop!

SEIU-West, together with SGEU and CUPE, are launching an online public petition to call for a wage top up for ALL health care workers. The website is www.skhealthproviders.ca Sign the petition, get your coworkers and family and friends to sign as well – we need the public to engage on this.

Q: Patricia - We need to bring this to the public that we have been without a contract for 3 years... and now is the time given the situation with the pandemic and what is going on in Ontario in LTC… we need to go to the public

As far as communicating the specifics discussions about proposals the bargaining table…we have agreed to a communications ban so that we aren’t bargaining in the press. SEIU-West has been messaging the general issues we face in delivering quality healthcare, including the length of time it is taking to get a fair and reasonable Collective Agreement that you, the members, will accept. Given the current situation, unless meaningful bargaining resumes, we are prepared to do just that.

Q: Larry - Have we received any recognition from the government for all the hard work we have been doing during this pandemic

I’ve sent Premier Moe emails to identify the classifications of people who work in health care so that he would acknowledge our work but at least sharing some of these. The Premier did, in his public address about 6 weeks ago.

And there are the messages from various MLA’s saying ‘Thank you to essential workers’ or ‘essential healthcare workers’. But Larry, I call on you and your coworkers to email the Premier at Premier@gov.sk.ca to talk about your work, why it’s important to the whole health care team and how long we’ve been without a collective agreement. Please cc me on that email at barb.cape@seiuwest.ca. We need every member to do this to put pressure on the government to invest in frontline health care providers.

Q: Dorothy - Has SUN signed an agreement? Also can I have permission to call Boots and Salutes and salute our frontline workers and boot the government for not giving us an agreement?

SUN is still in negotiations for a new collective agreement. And yes, feel free to call ‘Boots and Salutes’ – I’m not sure which radio station you’re referring to, but I think all health care workers can use the boost! Just please don’t make allegations against the Employer that may cause trouble for you in the future.

Q: Jasmine - Is there any current COVID legislation that would impede our access to job action?

There’s no legislation specific to the COVID pandemic. Public health orders set out 2m physical distancing; masking where possible; and group sizes, so how we hold rallies or set up picket lines may be affected. The orders appear to be changing in the near future, so we’ll be keeping an eye on this. We’re talking with both our International counterparts and Canadian counterparts for advice and tips on how we can manage our processes based on the public health orders.

Q: Linda - Because LTC facilities have come under fire in Ontario, will that give us some impact to alleviate working short etc. And I don't believe we should change the way we calculate seniority

I think the situation in both Quebec and Ontario have drawn a lot of attention to the conditions in long term care. We are raising these issues with our own government, not only in LTC, but in home care and acute care as well – short staffing is a plague that affects us all!

The Premier recently referenced the report ‘Program Guidelines for Special Care Homes’ and I feel pretty confident that very few, if any, health care workers have ready access to this. And dare I say it, I wonder if administrators have a working knowledge of it as well!

Finally, the 2019 CEO tour of long term care facilities and companion survey was just released. It’s disappointing as a read because so many were ignored: staff weren’t surveyed, and in only 18% of the homes were staff even part of a discussion! I don’t have a lot of faith in the accuracy of that report because it’s not an independent report.

Q: Dana - SUN seems to get a lot of attention and I think that's because they are so vocal with the commercials and the lobbying why aren't we doing the same?

We’ve had a number of commercials running as well as radio spots talking about our staff recognition weeks and our lack of an agreement. We’ve also been lobbying the Premier, our Ministers of Health and the Opposition. We need our members to pick up the gauntlet to write to the Premier and talk about their work, why it’s important and what the impact of being without a collective agreement means.

During the pandemic, we’ve been doing a lot of press in print and on radio.

Q: Russ - If SAHO doesn't have an appropriate mandate from the ER are they not bargaining in bad faith and can we not use that in our favour and avoid some of the hoops of Essential Services if they are at fault for stopping negotiations?

That’s a good question, Russ. This comes from the Government of Saskatchewan as the primary funder of health care and they – not the SHA – direct SAHO. If we were to request the LRB to determine SAHO is bargaining in bad faith, it won’t avoid the hoops of essential services but may delay the process. Past decisions of the Labour Relations Board regarding bad faith bargaining almost invariably direct the offending party (SAHO in this instance) back to the table…and we’d be at the same spot we’re at now, waiting for a reply from SAHO.

Q: Bob - I have written letters to the Health minister and got a response from the minister of Finance - her response to my ask about bargaining is that the other unions settled so what is SEIU's problem? What will we do about this kind of response?

Getting a reply from the Minister of Finance, when you write the Premier or Minister of Health is kind of frustrating– sorry that you experienced that Bob. But my advice is to reply and say ‘No, I would like a reply from the Minister of Health – please send it back for his reply.’ Or a similar version. The idea of the ‘non-response’ response is that they are trying to set you back on your heels; put you off so you’ll move onto something else. Don’t move on – redirect it back to the Minister of Health to respond.

SEIU-West’s problem is our members’ problem. We are tired of carrying the weight for a government that thinks healthcare human resources is a piggy bank to fund their political projects. We are dismayed at seeing incredible amounts of public money pissed against the wall on projects that have more to do with political opportunism than good governance. We are frustrated seeing a government abandon its duty of stewardship of the resources– human as well as capital – of the province. We are tired of the attitude of privilege of this government, that’s inherent in the statement made by the Minister of Finance. Simply put, SEIU-West’s problem is that we are sick and tired of our members being ignored.

Q: Kevin - We are not just CCA's LPN's Housekeepers etc. we are vital to the healthcare system and we need to stand strong.

ALL health care staff are incredibly vital to making the system run. Some classifications may be more in the public eye right now, but that doesn’t make everyone else’s job less important. We are a system that relies on each one of us to keep it running. Thanks for your comments Kevin!

Q: Sam - Why aren't our shift premiums similar to the other unions? (SUN etc.)

The short answer is that SUN was able to negotiate a rate that the government and Ministry of health were not prepared to offer to the provider healthcare workers. The longer answer is that the fact that you and our members work on weekends and evenings shouldn’t be treated any differently than others in the health care system who give up their weekends and evenings was met with an attitude of non-interest by the Employer side negotiating group.

On behalf of the SEIU-West bargaining committee, I want to thank all of our members for joining us for the virtual town hall.

I know that you likely get tired of hearing me say this, but we need each one of our members to call or write their MLA and Premier Scott Moe to talk about their work, why it’s important to the whole healthcare team and that we need a fair collective agreement. This pressure is incredibly effective to get politicians who are running for election to act in our favour. And while some of you have sent that letter, but not everyone has and we need to push back on the ‘no response’ responses we are getting from the Minister of Finance! If you want help or want to share your letter with us, you can send a copy to actions@seiuwest.ca.

This is a long damn time to be without a collective agreement and we hear the frustration from each one of you; we also feel the support from you. We will take the next steps together and keep engaged on what those look like.

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

Barbara Cape
President, SEIU-West

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