Sask. health care unions will accept conciliation

Hard line approach by Saskatchewan Party government negotiators called premature by negotiators for 25,000 health care providers.

Saskatchewan (3 Dec. 2009) - The three unions representing 25,000 health care providers in Saskatchewan are willing to consider mutually agreed to options such as conciliation in an effort to move contract negotiations forward.

The unions include the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU/NUPGE), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and the Service Employees International Union-West (SEIU-West).

They issued their statement after the Saskatchewan Party government's 29-member bargaining committee broke off contract talks, stating that negotiations had reached an impasse and asked the labour minister to appoint a conciliator. The government's move came as a surprise to the unions because they have only met eight times at a common bargaining table to discuss monetary issues.

Bonnie Erickson, negotiating committee chair for SGEU, says health care providers have been “patient beyond endurance” in negotiations with the government and health employers. “It has been almost two years without a contract and we were hoping to conclude a fair contract settlement as soon as possible. If an alternative option can help us achieve that goal, we certainly are willing to look at it,” she says.

Gordon Campbell, president of the CUPE Health Care Council, called the employer's request premature. “But if this process helps to get the employer back to the bargaining table, we are prepared to consider it,” he said.

None of the three health care provider unions shares the employer’s view that bargaining is at an impasse. However, they are frustrated by the employer’s persistent demands for concessions and the government’s refusal to table an equitable monetary package.

“It is hard to believe bargaining has reached an impasse at the common table when the parties only have spent a total of about four hours in face-to-face discussions,” adds Barbara Cape, president of SEIU-West. “After waiting more than a year to see the employer’s initial wage offer, we are disappointed the employer is forcing another delay in discussions about client safety, staff recruitment and retention issues and other workplace concerns.”

SEIU represents 11,000 health care providers in four health regions. SGEU represents 2,000 health care providers in three health regions. CUPE Health Care Council represents 12,600 health care providers in five health regions.

NUPGE

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

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