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Tuesday, 31 May 2011 11:30

HSAS calling for Wall to keep promise, go to arbitration

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Saskatchewan’s specialized health care professionals are calling on the Wall government to prevent escalating health care strikes, by agreeing to submit their current contract dispute with health care employers to independent, binding arbitration.


“The Wall government has been sending mixed messages on this critical issue. It’s time for the government to quit playing politics, and to act in the public interest,” Health Sciences President Cathy Dickson told a Regina news conference.


“On May 18, Premier Wall told the newspaper, the Prairie Post: 'l 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.' The Premier needs to listen. For weeks now, we have proposed to end all job action – in effect, to give up our right to strike – as soon as the government agrees to send our contract dispute to independent, binding arbitration or what labour relations experts sometimes call, interest arbitration,” Dickson said.


“Seeing the Premier’s public statements, our union contacted his office to confirm that the government is prepared to submit our contract dispute to arbitration. No one has returned our calls,” Dickson noted.


“This isn’t the first time Mr. Wall has said one thing and done another with respect to health care services and labour legislation. In a January 2007 letter that Wall sent to the president of the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses, he said: 'The Saskatchewan Party would also consider final offer arbitration or final offer selection as a means to bring both parties closer to an agreement and avoid lengthy labour disputes.' Even before his government’s election, Wall admitted that essential services legislation required an independent dispute resolution mechanism to guard against stalemated contract negotiations,” Dickson said.


“When in office he promptly ignored his own commitment, and introduced an essential services law that contains no such protection. Look at the legislation, you will find no mention of an independent dispute resolution mechanism in that law,” Dickson added.


“No wonder our recent province-wide public opinion poll found that Saskatchewan people feel this bad law has hurt, not helped contract negotiations in health care. No wonder the same poll found 67.5 per cent of respondents supported the use of independent, binding arbitration to settle the Health Sciences contract dispute. People see arbitration as a reasonable alternative to avoid health care strikes, while breaking the stalemate at the bargaining table that has now lasted more than two years,” Dickson said.


“It’s time for the Wall government to get serious about health care negotiations, and either send employers to the bargaining table with a proper mandate or agree to the independent dispute resolution mechanism it has suggested on more than one occasion. If they fail to act, they will be directly responsible for ongoing, escalating strike action with respect to Saskatchewan health care services,” Dickson concluded.

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