August 26, 2014 7:02 pm

Union accuses health regions of planning to break the law

REGINA – Bargaining between the province’s health regions and the Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan (HSAS) has led to a bitter feud about Saskatchewan’s essential services legislation.

HSAS, the union, which represents 3,600 specialized health care professionals says health regions are preparing to break the law in the event of job action.

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The union is currently at the bargaining table with the Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations (SAHO). They’ve been without a contract since March 2013 and already have a strike mandate, if those negotiations break down.

Strike notice hasn’t been delivered but health regions are preparing for the possibility.

Regions have sent letters to employees informing them they are essential but not necessarily essential all the time. For example, a list from the Prairie North Health Region deems an occupational therapist who works full-time is only “essential” 40 per cent of the time during work stoppage.

HSAS said that goes against the spirit of the legislation and could affect services.

“And the impact, if they do that, will be that families don’t get the services they need because they will be reduced,” said Karen Wasylenko, HSAS president.

SAHO argues it wouldn’t be breaking any laws because duties are deemed essential, not people.

“Should there be a strike called by the union, there will be employees that are deemed essential and health employers will have to look at changing the schedules for some of the employees,” said Doug Forseth, SAHO CEO.

Forseth added even if employees have their hours reduced they will maintain safe staffing levels.

Meanwhile, talks will continue through Thursday and both sides are hoping for successful negotiations.

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