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

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 [email protected].

We need your voice, your strength, your solidarity and your continued engagement.

In solidarity,

Barbara Cape
President, SEIU-West

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: Lost for words? Here is a letter template for your use.
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 on

In Solidarity,

Barbara Cape: President of SEIU-West & member of the Bargaining Committee

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. 

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

President’s Message: Meet Your SAHO/Extendicare Bargaining Team!

October 20, 2016

Earlier this year, notifications and applications were posted on for the SAHO/Extendicare Bargaining Conference and Bargaining Committee. On October 2-3, 2016, roughly 110+ SEIU-West health care members engaged in a highly productive and informative two days. At the Conference, we were also pleased to announce who will make up our SAHO and Extendicare Bargaining Committee teams – and I’m happy to share this information with you now:

  • Celeste Dixon – Extendicare Sunset
  • Tanya Ziffle – Extendicare Elmview
  • Lynette Pinfold – Extendicare Moose Jaw
  • Teresa Roux – Extendicare Preston
  • Rick Brown – SHR
  • Simone Corriveau – SHR
  • Colleen Denniss – HHR
  • Brenda Berry – FHHR
  • Donna Gallant – FHHR
  • Judy Denniss – SHR
  • Kim Wyatt – SHR
  • Kim Deitner – SHR
  • Janice Platzke – CHR/SEIU-West Treasurer
  • Russel Doell – Deputy Director, Collective Bargaining and Enforcement (Staff)
  • Kerry Barrett – Negotiations Officer (Staff)
  • Bob Laurie – Director, Collective Bargaining and Enforcement (Staff)
  • Barb Cape – SEIU-West President

The time commitment for the SAHO/Extendicare Bargaining Committee is substantial, and I want to thank each and every single committee member who agreed to taking on such a large undertaking – it certainly was a hard decision to make!

I believe that this group of members, leaders and staff is truly committed to ensuring the best possible collective agreement for all SAHO and Extendicare members – I look forward to working with this great team!

In the meantime, we ask that all our health care members engage in current government initiatives that will affect our public health care system.

Transformational Change in Health Care:

Our provincial government has set out on a path of “Transformational Change” in our Saskatchewan health care system, yet it is riddled with mystery.

“Transformational Change” within health care in Saskatchewan must be questioned and explained – why the lack of clear definitions? Why is there not meaningful consultation? Why is the mandate solely to reduce the number of Regional Health Authorities? Has my government considered other means to ensure efficiency in quality health care?

Members of the public and frontline health care workers deserve transparency – we urge you to send a letter questioning the purpose of health care reform:

Click “Participate” to send a letter through our campaign page to the Minister of Health Jim Reiter!

In Solidarity,

Barb Cape

National Nursing Week – It’s Continuing Care Assistants (CCA) Day!

By Barb Cape, President – SEIU-West

Hello and Happy Nursing Week!

We are well into our celebrations within SEIU-West…whether there has been a cake in your facility, or you’ve participated in our Nursing Week contest or you are simply enjoying a collaborative nursing team…all of these things matter.

Earlier this week, I talked about the role of the LPN in continuing education and the skills brought to their work as part of the nursing team. Today I want to talk about the role of our CCAs.

The Continuing Care Assistants bring experience, knowledge and training to their daily work. With a certificate program that covers different aspects and environments of care, there is a focus on the technical aspects of the work. But the people who work within this classification also bring a considerable amount of compassion to the care they provide.

I have always said that it’s a special person who works in health care or related fields, regardless of classification. But for the CCA, they are with people during the most vulnerable point in their lives, whether it’s at the end of life, or daily care, or during truly difficult medical situations – they provide the hands-on role of care provider that we seldom see elsewhere.

RNs bring a level of knowledge and skill specific to more involved health care needs; LPNs provide a practical and immediate knowledge for assessment and care plans; and CCAs are the eyes and ears of the team; providing invaluable observations and contributing to the overall ability of the health care team to use their respective level of knowledge and skill in the field via hands-on care.

I believe that there is a need for a reboot of how we look at nursing teams. There is an opportunity for a greater degree of collaboration in the team itself; a recognition of the knowledge and skill that each member brings to the overall provision of nursing care.

We all have a role in this system; we do not operate in silos. Each person who works in health care is a front-line expert and we should acknowledge and respect both their unique role and their responsibility.

For today during Nursing Week, join me in celebrating the Continuing Care Assistants who provide dignity, comfort and care to those they serve.

To enter the Nursing Week Contest, click here.

To download a PDF of the Nursing Week Poster, click here.

Celebrate Nursing Week – It’s Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) Day!

By Barb Cape, President – SEIU-West

Happy National Nursing Week!! SEIU-West is so proud of its members who work in nursing teams – this week serves as an opportunity to show our gratitude, and to also share important information around the vital work they do. To start the week, I want to begin by highlighting Licensed Practical Nurses (stay tuned for Continuing Care Assistants’ Day, later this week!)

Recently, I had a very interesting conversation with a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) who is a member of SEIU-West in Saskatoon. She was upset about the ongoing struggle between the Registered Nurses and members of SUN, and their regulatory body, the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association (SRNA). She said, “Today is a sad day for regulation in Saskatchewan”. And while we in health care pay attention to these issues, what is this really about? 

Recently, the Ministry of Health approved the new set of bylaws that govern the Licensed Practical Nurse scope of practice under which LPNs can safely work. The bylaws were intended to provide role clarity as they describe quite specifically the work that is done by LPNs daily based on their competencies. As well, the LPN education program created and delivered by SASK Polytech has expanded to encompass some additional duties and practices. The new bylaws reflect these added education pieces. This process is no different from that of every other regulated profession, as they seek to remain up-to-date. For example, LPNs, Doctors, RNs, technologists, and pharmacists are all required to take continuing education credits to ensure that they remain current in their profession. It’s a great idea and even though I’m not in a regulated profession, I think lifelong learning and staying up to speed on my profession (Chef) is a brilliant idea.

But that’s part of the problem: SRNA and others are arguing that these skills are not a part of a LPNs ‘foundational’ education (aka their original course). But that’s a red herring because regulated professions add to their body of knowledge via their educational program. Additional courses and skill upgrades are regularly offered to all professions – regardless of who they are in health care. Lawyers do it. Accountants do it. And RNs do it…so why not LPNs? These courses or programs might be offered on-line, or via an employer, or through Sask Polytech… but they all must be a recognized and vetted course in order for it to count towards improving one’s skills.

There is a claim that LPNs are working outside of their scope and putting patients at risk. I have said this before and will say this again: PROVE IT! And if you know of someone working outside of their scope, contact SALPN immediately! It’s not ok once or twice; it’s not ok if no one is looking – it is not OK! But that being said, I have yet to find any evidence of LPNs putting their patients at risk by working outside of the LPN scope of practice. If the true issue is a lack of acceptance of the expanded education, skill and competencies of LPNs – that’s just goofy. There is a role for every health care profession in advancing the model of care Saskatchewan residents deserve. There is no role for professional jealousies.

As our LPN member who works in an Operating Room, she said: “…I love my job. I love going to work every day and I feel honored to help people during one of the scariest times in their lives. I took the same peri-op program as my RN counterparts and was partnered for group assignments with a RN. I was the sole LPN in a group with five RNs… we wrote the same exams, assignments and research papers. I feel strongly that my education prepared me to serve in my role. I feel strongly that the public should be able to have confidence in me when I come to walk them into the operating room. I am good at what I do.”

Click to enlarge.

The public needs to know that the work of EVERYONE on the health care team is valued. From maintenance, to administration, to front-line nursing, to support services, and everything in between. There are some jobs that I can’t and shouldn’t do, because I am a cook; just as there are some duties that a LPN can’t and shouldn’t do because it’s outside of the scope of practice for a LPN. There really is a role for all members of the nursing team including the RN, the LPN and the CCA.

As we celebrate Nursing week, I ask you to remember this: everyone has skills to bring to our health care system. We cannot operate in silos; we cannot eliminate any one player on our health care team and we all know how to improve our health care system… let’s remember that this week. Let’s work together to build strong nursing teams – to do this we must stop the ongoing attacks against all members of our nursing teams, recognize and value the professional skills offered by each and create pride and respect for our diverse roles.

Other Resources:

To enter the Nursing Week Contest, click here.

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