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The Saskatchewan government and health employers “final offered” 25,000 health care providers and cancelled conciliation.

Their actions have angered CUPE, which represents 12,600 health providers in five health regions.

“We are bitterly disappointed that the employers’ first move in conciliation is to present a final offer and cancel conciliation,” says CUPE Health Care Council President Gordon Campbell. “They’ve made a mockery of the conciliation process.”

The employers’ arrogance is tied to the government’s new essential services legislation, he adds. Under the legislation, three out of four health care providers are deemed essential and unable to strike.

The three health care providers unions – CUPE, SGEU and SEIU – have been negotiating for 17 months. Their contracts expired nearly two years ago.

“This so-called final offer is disgraceful,” says Mike Keith, CUPE’s chief negotiator, adding it contains all of the major concessions CUPE members rejected last June, when they voted 88% in support of job action. “These concessions are a license for health employers to understaff and overwork our members and mismanage our health care system.”

Keith says the union has “lost all confidence” that health employers have the mandate to negotiate a fair agreement.

“We are calling on the government to get serious about contract negotiations and stop trying to provoke a strike,” says Keith.

“We want to return to the bargaining table and negotiate a reasonable contract settlement. And we want the government to put a bargaining team in place to make make that happen,” he says.