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May 30, 2001

CUPE health care workers across Saskatchewan are prepared to take job action to support their bargaining demands for improvements in four key areas.

The CUPE Health Care Council, which bargains on behalf of more than 12,000 health care workers, held the strike vote last week after contract talks broke down over the issues of workload, pensions, paid personal/family leaves and parity. CUPE members voted 63% in support of taking job action to achieve a fair settlement.

Our members are saying they are not prepared to settle for the way things are in the health system. They want changes changes that include manageable workloads, better pensions benefits, and paid days for personal and family leave. And theyre prepared to walk the line to get them, says Steve Foley, President of the CUPE Health Care Council.

The CUPE health care members who are mostly women - work in acute care, long term care, community care and home care in 18 health districts and one northern hospital. They are employed in a variety of positions including special care and dietary aides, porters, licensed practical nurses, lab and x-ray technicians, housekeeping, laundry and maintenance.

The crushing workloads in health care must be addressed in this bargaining round, says Foley. Our members are routinely working exhausted, sick, injured and over-time because there is so much to do and not enough staff to do it. It cant continue. Our members want a life.

The CUPE Health Care President says SAHO and the provincial government are not going to solve the staff recruitment and retention problem in the health system until they start caring for the health of health care workers.

Why would anyone want to work in the health system when it means working short-staffed, when it means working in a sector with the highest injury rate, when it means working shifts and weekends and seldom seeing your families, when it means working in part-time and casual jobs, when it means having to postpone vacation plans because there is no one to cover for you, and when it means retiring into poverty, Foley states.

In an effort to resolve the bargaining impasse, CUPE and SAHO are applying for conciliation today. The union is hopeful a conciliator will help to facilitate the achievement of a settlement on the priority issues.

The CUPE Health Care President stresses the membership will pursue job action if these issues arent addressed through the conciliation process.

The CUPE Health Care Council agreement expired on March 31.

For further information please contact: Stephen Foley, President at: 306 525-5874, Ext. 227