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Saskatchewan Nurses Strife

by Teresa B. Hiebert, R.N.

talks between SUN (Saskatchewan Union of Nurses) and SAHO (Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations-the bargaining unit for the employers) had resumed on May 10. Bargaining was going quite well at first. At the end of this last week, talks broke down over the IAC issue. To clarify, IAC means Independent Assessment Committee. When there are problems in or with the workplace, the SUN member may write up a WSR (workplace situation report). These are given to the union's Nursing Advisory Committee (NAC). With this documentation and research to back us, these issues are dealt with with management. Some examples: the core staffing may need to go up 1 RN on a night shift, maybe a unit clerk is needed in the afternoons, or an extra nurse's aid is needed for the morning shift core staffing, or maybe there is a need for more staff education & the employer needs to provide more inservices to ensure safe client care, or it may pertain to safe workplace environment issues. When the problem identified is not 'fixed' by the employer, the situation goes through steps to the IAC. This committee (with members from both sides) reviews the problem & ultimately decides a 'solution'. Presently, the IAC decision is NOT binding. The employer is not obligated to carry out what the decision says.

The "Framework Agreement" that was signed had a clause in it stating that the IAC decisions will be binding. This alone was a major encouraging reason for nurses to return to work. We could now be empowered in the workplace; improved staffing, better patient care, safer work environments, improved staff education, etc...or so we thought.

Well, SAHO last week insisted on adding several restrictions to binding IAC's. SAHO wants all the IAC members to be NON-NURSING. Therefore there would be no nursing input into the decisions. The restrictions SAHO demands would in a nutshell make it near impossible to even bring up nursing issues!! And at this point talks break down. SUN has asked to meet with the provincial government & as of yet haven't heard back. (The provincial government was, after all, VERY involved with the back to work legislation, the court injunction against union leaders & fines, and then the Memorandum of Understanding & the Framework Agreement which brought the nurses back to work.) An FYI to our American nursing counterparts re: the airlifting of patients. Well, the provincial government strategy through the strike sure appeared as a smear campaign against SUN. Our provincial government is also supposed to be a labor party (New Democratic Party-NDP). The gov't utilized radio ads, full page newspaper ads, media coverage; implying that the nurses were not providing essential services. The media was frequently there to cover the airlifting of patients to the USA (surprise, surprise). There were nurses on standby & on call for essential services 24 hours a day, every day. In several instances they were NOT contacted. Nurses were on standby for essential services, even right in rooms in the large hospitals, ready to respond to emergency situations while patients were being airlifted. Was all that airlifting really necessary, NOT!!! Oh, the bills for all the airlifting & incurred medical expenses out of province have since been sent to SUN...

In SEVERAL places, relief shifts were even provided for management staff who said they were too tired! Where is our relief? Over tired and forced overtime and working short...and no relief. We cannot allow the nurses we have left to burn out -- there just aren't enough of us to go around. How many more cuts can our healthcare system take before it hemorrhages? Band-aid solutions just won't work anymore. Send support messages to

p.s.- Roy Romanow has delayed the spring election potentially till next spring and he said it was because of the nurses being unsettled!!!

Working in Saskatchewan for now, Teresa B. Hiebert, R.N.
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