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About 3,000 licensed practical nurses (LPNs) in Saskatchewan received a well-deserved pay increase in February, after a lengthy review by the Joint Job Evaluation Maintenance Committee. CUPE represents one-half of these nurses.

CUPE members working as LPNs applied for the pay review in 2008, following increases to nursing education standards, and an expansion of the scope of duties and responsibilities for practical nurses.

Registered and psychiatric nurses represented by the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) had also recently achieved a 35 per cent pay increase. The SUN wage hike created a significant pay gap among nursing classifications.

LPNs account for one of every four nurses in the province.

The long-awaited LPN pay increase, implemented in February, lifts the wages of LPNs by two pay bands, with increases ranging from $4.66 to $ 5.00 an hour. Effective April 1, the starting wage of an LPN in Saskatchewan is $31.01, while the top rate is $33.21. The issue of retro pay remains outstanding. The union has filed grievances.

“My co-workers and I love the latest wage increase even though we are still too far behind what an RN earns, especially doing the same job in the nursing home” said Judy Ellis, an LPN working in long-term care in Regina. “I think every time an LPN is required to take another course to upgrade our skills, our wages should reflect that.”

The increase was streamlined after the maintenance committee was granted increased autonomy over the decision-making process. CUPE’s expert job evaluation staff was on hand to support the committee and provided technical advice regarding changes to the positions.

In addition, the review of the LPN working supervisor classification was finalized in March. Nurses in those classifications will move to pay band 17, which has a starting rate of $33.33 and a top rate of $35.72.

I work in a rural hospital facility where we’ve always worked to full scope. We dispense meds, work in out-patient and have really supportive managers” said Debbie Haftner, an LPN in Turtleford. “I couldn’t imagine not working to full scope. I love what I do – though working for the last few years at a much lower pay rate than other nurses was hard to swallow. I’m glad we got the increase. It shows our work is valued.”

The review of other six jobs in the LPN family is expected to be completed within weeks.