SAHO and HSAS at an impasse for negotiations

Jodi Schellenberg
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They all want to head back to the bargaining table, but neither organization will agree on a proposal.

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Negotiations between the Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations (SAHO) and the Health Sciences Associations of Saskatchewan (HSAS) stalled on June 27 when HSAS rejected the latest SAHO proposal.

“We told SAHO on June 27 what our position was and that was that they would need to remove all the takeaways in order for the negotiation to proceed any further,” HSAS President Karen Wasylenko said. “They have on the table proposals where it includes previous negotiated items that were agreed to by both sides and have been in the contract for members for many years. Before anything else, we were prepared to certainly discuss our proposal as well, but those takeaways would have to be off the table.”

According to a news release from SAHO, they are interested in developing a positive relationship with all health-care unions in the province.

“We value the skilled contributions of our entire health-care team, which includes our health science professionals,” SAHO CEO Doug Forseth said.

The collective bargaining process between the two organizations is to reach an agreement “that is affordable to the health-care system, meets the needs of the patients, employers and the union, and which is comparable to other health science professionals across Western Canada,” he said.

Wasylenko said they are willing to go back to the bargaining table if SAHO will remove the takeaway, by not until they do.

“That was our position at that point and we are certainly open to getting a contract and negotiating with them but the significant request from them of the three proposals that they wanted for us to remove in order for other language and we said before we would even consider those they would have to remove their takeaways,” she said. “That was our position at that point and that is our position at this point to date.”

Some of the takeaways were related to professional fees, licensing fees and arbitration pieces being removed.

“There is designation of positions for how their working hours work out,” Wasylenko said. “If there was a disagreement between the two sides, what we had in our previous contract for many years was it would go to arbitration.

“They want that arbitration piece removed and we are not in agreement with that,” she added. “Our members would not accept this and our members are totally against any removal or capping of professional fees when the employer has paid for those all along.”

She said SAHO also will not discuss some of the proposals around education leave of absence, understaffing, lack of coverage, long patient waiting lists or requests for public disclosure.

In 14 days, HSAS will be in the legal position to strike, if they would so desire. The appointed provincial mediator provided a final report that precludes further bargaining.

Both sides would like to continue bargaining without going to strike if possible.

“We respect the Saskatchewan Employment Act legislation and will follow it accordingly, but we also encourage HSAS to return to the table to achieve a collective agreement that works for everyone involved,” Forseth said. “Our preference would be to return to the table, but in the event that HSAS does pursue strike action, the Essential Service Act will ensure a safe level of staffing for both patients and employees during a labour disruption.”

HSAS would like SAHO to consider removing the takeaways from the table before bargaining can continue.

“I think at this point we just … hope that SAHO will be willing to reconsider what we had left off on June 27 of the removal of takeaways and then we will sit down and discuss our proposals and see how we can go forward,” Wasylenko said. “That was our intention and that is what we said to them repeatedly and with facilitators through those discussions over two days.

“Basically the ball is in their court and we hope that they would come and ask to sit down and continue on,” she added. “At this point, we are at an impasse and we will be considering what our options are over the next two weeks.”

Organizations: Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations, Health Sciences Associations, Essential Service

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Western Canada

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