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Health care union warns Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe of possible job action

In a letter to the premier and health and labour relations ministers, SEIU-West president Barbara Cape says members have been left feeling frustrated and want action. File / Global News

A union representing more than 12,000 health-care workers in Saskatchewan has written to the premier warning of job action if there is no change in negotiations.

Service Employees International Union West says that in late May a Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations bargaining agent shut down a collective bargaining session.

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In a letter to the premier and health and labour relations ministers, union president Barbara Cape says members have been left feeling frustrated and want action.

“I am angry that this is what the bargaining agent for the provincial health authority chose to do in the middle of a pandemic,” she said.

She says workers are on the front lines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is a bad time for the agent to have left the table.

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“There’s a really protracted process set out in the Saskatchewan Employment Act that we have to follow and this is, quite frankly, a heads up to government: We’re going there.

“We’re continuing to bargain for what our members asked for. When they rejected a tentative agreement a year ago they said that zero, zero, one, two and two (per cent) is not enough for what we do,” Cape said of general wage increases.

Premier Scott Moe‘s office says in a statement that bargaining representatives are willing to return to the table for further negotiations.

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Spokesman Jim Billington says it would be inappropriate for ministers to get involved.

“The government of Saskatchewan respects the collective bargaining process and remains confident that a negotiated settlement can be reached,” he added.

Back in December, SEIU-West members gave their bargaining committee a job action mandate to secure a contract, which they have been without for three years.

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Public sector workers in Saskatchewan have to deal with essential services legislation and an agreement would have to be in place before any strike.

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“Unless your government immediately empowers and enforces (Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations) and the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s mandate to bargain in good faith and provide a greatly improved, genuine offer for our members, SEIU-West is prepared to do all in our legislated power to allow our members to exercise their constitutional right to take job action,” the union’s letter reads.