Sask health care providers have conciliatory talks canceled by province
Union looks for collective agreements, launches tv ad in support of public services.
As the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union (SGEU) launched an television ad supporting public services, more than 25,000 health care providers in Saskatchewan saw talks collapse last week between them and the government and the Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations (SAHO). The province and SAHO presented a "take it or leave it offer" to conciliator Doug Forseth, canceled bargaining dates and then contacted the media.
Representatives of the three health care provider unions were bitterly disappointed by the employers' actions, saying it showed a tremendous disrespect to health care providers. "Can you imagine them treating teachers or registered nurses this way?" asked Gordon Campbell, President of the Health Care Council.
Instead of receiving a promised response, the employers produced a final offer – one that increases the wage offer by 0.1 per cent (to 9.5 per cent over four years) and contains many concessions.
"It was a charade. The Saskatchewan government and SAHO only came to these talks to make an appearance," says Campbell. "They had no interest in resolving the outstanding issues to achieve a settlement."
Barbara Cape, President of SEIU-West, says the Saskatchewan government must be held accountable for the fact that health care providers still don't have a resolution to staff recruitment and retention issues that impact the delivery of a "Patient First" model of health care, after 17 months of contract negotiations.
"The Saskatchewan Party government ensured that our sisters and brothers in the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses, who we work side by side with, had a generous offer after two months of negotiations. Yet they continue to insist that our members accept an insulting monetary package and major concessions," she said.
The 25,000 health care providers in the province have been without new collective agreements for almost two years. They include special care aides, licensed practical nurses, food services workers, laundry, housekeeping and activity personnel, maintenance, administrative, clerical, emergency medical personnel, therapeutic and diagnostic technologists, and recreational workers.
Bonnie Erickson, Negotiating Committee Chair of SGEU, blames the government's essential services legislation for the employers' arrogant attitude. "The legislation has given all the power to the employers so they have little interest in addressing our workplace concerns."
All three unions, which have strong strike mandates, plan to hold membership meetings in the coming weeks to discuss ways to achieve fair contract settlements.
The CUPE Health Care Council represents 12,600 health care providers in five health regions. SEIU represents 11,000 health care providers in four health regions and SGEU represents 2,000 health care providers in three health regions.