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Wall Government Must Act to Prevent Escalating Health Care Strikes

Saskatoon (June 13, 2011) – The Wall government can only prevent escalating health care strikes across Saskatchewan by ordering SAHO to bargain in good faith or agreeing to send the current contract dispute between SAHO and Health Sciences to independent, interest-based, binding arbitration, Health Sciences President Cathy Dickson said.

“The Wall government continues to show disrespect for Saskatchewan’s specialized health care professionals, and this attitude will only result in escalating health care strikes, because our members are frustrated with our contract dispute, which has now gone on for more than two years. Only a fundamental change in the government’s approach is likely to result in a breakthrough now,” Dickson said from a picket line set up outside the Saskatoon constituency office of Labour Minister Don Morgan.

“When we requested independent, binding arbitration Labour Minister Morgan rejected it saying: “we think contracts are best negotiated at the table rather than written by a third party”. But when we returned to the bargaining table, SAHO presented us with what they now claim is a non-negotiable ‘final offer’, which they refused to even discuss with us. When we declared their offer to be a ‘basis for negotiations’ and presented a counter offer, they practically ran from the bargaining table! Where is Don Morgan’s commitment to meaningful negotiations now?” Dickson asked.

“Don Morgan, Brad Wall and the rest of the government have to stop playing political games with Saskatchewan’s specialized health care professionals and the people we serve. While refusing to bargain in good faith with us, the Wall government had no problem providing Registered Nurses with wage increases of more than 35% in 2008. This same government had no problem providing health care managers with wage increases of up to 37% earlier this year. All we’re asking for is a fair and reasonable contract offer yet the Wall government refuses to act,” Dickson noted.

“With the Wall government’s backing, SAHO also continues to dismiss our attempts to enforce ‘professional standards’ for the staffing of our members. This protection was given to Registered Nurses and their patients in 2008. It would simply make staffing of our professions more public, transparent and accountable,” Dickson noted.

“Those who say we should ‘trust’ health care managers to properly staff health care services, should ask themselves how a single Respiratory Therapist was recently forced to deal with seven overdose patients from a house party, who all had to be placed on life support! How was that a safe level of service? Those who say “let the managers manage” should ask how one health region has employed a Public Health Inspector for nearly two years who has not yet completed her degree or passed her certification exam. And what about the rural EMS services, where chronic under-staffing means that an average of seven times a day, rural ambulances fail to reach patients within a half hour – the national standard for safe response times in rural communities?” Dickson asked.

“This contract dispute is not only about achieving competitive wages and benefits to help with the recruitment and retention of our specialized health care professionals. It is also about forcing health care managers to publicly account for their chronic under-staffing of health care professions, and the danger under-staffing has created for Saskatchewan patients,” Dickson concluded.

For Further Information Contact:

Cathy Dickson (President, Health Sciences)
1-306-361-5655

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