President's Message: Labour Day 2018

For many, Labour Day is just the last long weekend of summer, enjoyed with little understanding of its origin or relevance. For activists within the labour movement, however, Labour Day is an important opportunity to educate the public about the many workplace protections and benefits they enjoy because of the good work of labour unions; like the 40 hour work week, maternity leave, worker’s compensation benefits, and workplace safety standards.

In my experience as the President of SEIU-West, I have enjoyed many face to face conversations with our members. Some have come to the workplace and inherited their union, while others have fought tirelessly to organize their union in their workplace. These conversations have taught me that our members are the experts. Whether they work in crisis support, health care, education support, community based organizations or addictions recovery, our members share – a constant desire to improve the services they provide in order to make their community better for everyone.

At SEIU-West, we share this perspective. We want to build partnerships to improve the many communities where our members work and live. We offer a network of opportunities to our members; pathways for them to learn, participate and engage. We know that enhancing the involvement of our members in our union enriches both workplace and community health. We do this work because we want the public to better understand the critical role unions play within our society. We have a shared interest in the protection of quality democracy. We believe in and will champion a fair society.

Politically, there has long been an agenda to weaken the role of unions. Driven by the self-interest of the rich and powerful, this ideology attempts to undermine unions’ work on behalf of our members; to under-value the efforts to address social justice issues and create balance in the power dynamic between workers and their bosses. Unions believe that by educating the public and dispelling the myths surrounding our organizations, we can build stronger and better alliances that benefit not just our members, but all working people.

As a consequence, we take a great deal of pride in the celebration of Labour Day and we share with our many members, an energetic interest in strengthening their participation and motivating their engagement whether it be at Labour Day events or the many other opportunities that will build a better and more equal society in our future.

SEIU-West Labour Day Message

In recognition of labour day, SEIU-West members Terrilyn St. Amour and Carmela Verwimp, alongside their union President, Barbara Cape, share their labour day messages of solidarity, strength and justice. These powerful messages are also published with the Star Phoenix and Leader Post:

President's Message: Cape's Corner - Summer 2018

Our Union’s broad membership sees many different challenges, including underfunding of public services, short-staffing, and threats of privatization. We continue to push back against these challenges so that our members can continue to provide quality services to the highest standards of professionalism. How do we push back? With broad-based campaigns that incorporate all of our members and our solidarity within the labour movement.

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.

President’s Message: SAHO Bargaining and Telephone Town Hall Follow Up - No. 1

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 [email protected].

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 [email protected] 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.

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. 13, Oct. 17, Oct. 24, Oct. 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 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. 13, Oct. 17, Oct. 24 and Oct. 30) 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

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