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Wednesday, 18 May 2011 17:26

EXCLUSIVE: Wall hints arbitration may be possible to resolve HSAS-SAHO labour dispute

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By Chris Jaster — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

There may be a chance for the Health Science Association of Saskatchewan union to get their wish of third-party binding arbitration after all.

HSAS, which represents 30 specialized health care professions including psychologist, dieticians, social workers and speech-language pathologists, has been at loggerheads with the Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations since its contract expired March 31, 2009.

HSAS is asking for an 18.5 per cent wage increase over four years while SAHO, which is bargaining for the province's health regions, is offering 7.5 per cent over four years. HSAS is also requesting health regions stop practising vacancy management — where they leave positions vacant to save money and build up a surplus.

The union has held rotating strikes throughout the province since May 9 in an attempt to get permission from the government to take the labour dispute to a third-party binding arbitration.

Although the provincial government would like to see the dispute settled at the bargaining table, Premier Brad Wall said HSAS may get the opportunity to go to arbitration if they give up something in return.

"In other provinces, there is binding arbitration, but you know what? Unions give up the right to strike completely in many of those cases; in fact all of them that we're aware of," Wall said in an end-of-session interview with the Prairie Post.

"I have not heard the union say they completely want to give up the right to strike. I guess if they do, we can talk about that."

Cathy Dickson believes the government's Essential Services Legislation has already taken away HSAS's ability to strike by limiting which employees can walk out on strike.

She does, however, think the proposition is "interesting" and needs to be discussed before HSAS decides how to move forward.

"It's movement on their part, and I don't make those decisions on my own by a long shot," she said. It would have to be a team decision. If they were willing to talk about that, it would have to be something that we would have to take to the membership to make that decision."

Dickson believes it may take at least a few days to get an education package together before HSAS decides whether it wants to give up its right to strike to go to binding arbitration.

Click here to find out about the HSAS strike in Swift Current May 13.

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