'Three out of five members of the union negotiating committee ... have been identified as essential. If there were a work stoppage, we would be virtually unable to meet to bargain an end to the strike.'
Regina (26 March 2009) - Too much time and resources are being diverted from Saskatchewan's health care system to deal with the province's flawed essential services legislation, says the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union (SGEU/NUPGE).
"It's a waste," says SGEU president Bob Bymoen. "The strains on our health care system are serious enough as it is."
SGEU represents approximately 2,400 health service providers in the Kelsey Trail, Mamawetan Churchill River and Keewatin Yatthé health regions.
"Our goal is to bargain a fair collective agreement for our members. That's the job we want to concentrate on," Bymoen adds.
Health regions have delivered revised lists — of employees they believe are essential in the event of a strike — as part of the process of negotiating a separate essential services agreement. However, the lists are long and flawed in a number of ways, SGEU says.
In Kelsey Trail Health Region, for example, workers who are currently on leave — on long term disability, or on other definite leaves — are identified, by name, as essential.
In other cases, workers no longer employed by the region are listed as essential. Workers are also deemed essential in departments where they no longer work.
In addion, casual staff with no regular or guaranteed hours are identified as essential, and hours of work for certain employees are reduced or increased according — presumably — to the portion of their duties that are seen as essential.
"The lists also appear to violate the essential services legislation which maintains that workers deemed essential will be covered by the terms of the last collective agreement," says Bymoen.
"Yet if people are on leave, or scheduled to work certain shifts in accordance with the collective agreement, the employer cannot arbitrarily change those conditions of work."
In addition, health regions have not identified the service that is proposed to be essential, even though the legislation requires this, Bymoen notes.
"On top of all of these problems, three out of five members of the union negotiating committee ... have been identified as essential. If there were a work stoppage, we would be virtually unable to meet to bargain an end to the strike," he adds.
"Enough time and money has been wasted on this process. We want this government to scrap this legislation and let us get on with the job of bargaining a fair collective agreement for our members."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE