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

Pages:
SAHO Bargaining Page
Extendicare Bargaining
Transformational Change Page

President’s Message: JJE and Diagnostic Imaging Technologists

The JJEMC identified over a year ago that a whole host of classifications (including the MRT, MRI techs & Diagnostic Medical Sonographers) were going to be affected potentially through JJE due to education changes implemented at (Canadian) education institutions.

  1. The Unions requested provincial job reviews so as to delay the anticipated review and implementation process and to allow the parties to negotiate fundamental changes to the education factor within the JJE program to address concerns including retention and recruitment challenges. Another major reason for requesting a provincial review is that changes to other factors could potentially offset the changes to course hours and program entry requirements.
  2. The Unions – since the conclusion of the provincial job reviews (looking at those job fact sheets submitted from across the province) – have asked SAHO and the employers repeatedly to delay the implementation of the lower pay bands to new employees until the parties have a chance to review the JJE plan. SEIU-West have done so again as of November 1, 2017 (at the bargaining table).
  3. Not certain if our members recall but history has repeated itself with this factor rating problem (as it relates to the technologist classifications). The last time we attempted to deal with it, the results were a LOU (on page 168 of the CBA) re: review of Technologist/Technician classifications. This time we would like to fix the problem permanently through the negotiation of a revised factor analysis to the JJE program as it would allow for an examination of the appropriateness of the plan with respect to the classifications that have been effected. What needs to be understood is that funding cuts to learning institutions may lend to reduced program hour changes (our current experience) in an effort to reduce overall education institution budgets…thus begins the cycle.
  4.  The Unions have tabled a number of proposals at collective bargaining including the most recent which is to strike a sub-committee to deal with the negotiation of the fundamental change to the education factor as it is weighs into the JJE program and what the components are of the education factor.

We are pleased that we have members speaking out at this time as we need your help to highlight the projected outward migration to Alberta or Ontario as a result of these decisions continuing to move forward.

Further, we need to emphasize that any planned recruitment for the Children’s Hospital will be significantly affected as a result of these decisions continuing to move forward.

Once again, we need you to contact your MLA and the Health Minister’s office to let them know that they will NOT be able to fill any vacancies moving forward and there will be more of them as technologists will certainly opt for higher pay in Alberta at the new Edmonton hospital.

This is what we know:

  •  The MRT classification as well as the Diagnostic Medical Sonographer classification have been on the SHR Hard to Recruit list for over seven years. This is going to make an already unmanageable problem worse.

Finally, we would like to meet with our members employed in the Technologist classifications (including MRTs, MRITs & DMS) to have a more fulsome discussion. We have put a request forward to get copies of materials held by the JJEMC assistant so as to get added info prior to our meeting; she is on vacation until November 7, 2017.

As well, we are meeting with SAHO for negotiations all this week so we will need to look at dates next week or later.

In Solidarity,
Barbara Cape
President, SEIU-West

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: http://www.legassembly.sk.ca/mlas/. 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 SEIUWEST.ca.

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 www.seiuwest.ca 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

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