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CUPE planning information campaign, picket lines

MEDICINE HAT The union representing support staff at the Palliser Health Region is crying foul over the bargaining position of the regional health authority.

Colleen Morrison, Vice-President of CUPE Local 189, said the union was shocked at the positions being taken by the region.

The health region is asking our members to give up benefits that all other provincial health care staff enjoy, said Morrison. No other health region in Alberta is asking their staff to accept these kinds of cuts, but Palliser seems to feel we should here. There is no logic behind it.

Morrison said the positions put forward by the region include:

  • Allowing the region to pay part time benefits to employees working full time hours.
  • Removing the right of employees to use sick time for medical appointments.
  • Reducing the hours of rest between shifts from 15.5 hours to 12 hours.
  • Changing the wage grid for clerical staff so that they dont receive top pay until they have worked six years, or 12 years for part time employees, up from one year currently.
  • Eliminating the 2 days per year of family leave so staff would have to use vacation time to tend to sick family members, and then only with a doctors note.
  • Insisting that the staff dental plan pay out at 1997 dental rates instead of the current schedule.
  • Not allowing staff to take bereavement leave should a death in the family occur during a vacation. In those instances, staff would have to continue to use their vacation time.

What they are doing is attacking the staff and the families of the staff, said Morrison. They are taking away benefits that health care workers in every other part of Alberta enjoy.

Morrison questioned the need for the health region to take such a hard line, noting that the provincial government recently pumped $750 million into the health authorities. In a debt free province, the government doesnt need to claw back our benefits.

CUPE announced its plans for a public relations campaign aimed at Tom Seaman, CEO of the health region, MLA Rob Renner, and Palliser Board chair Len Mitzel, who is seeking a Conservative Party nomination in the riding of Cypress-Medicine Hat.

The union is planning an information picket line for next Thursday July 22, 2004 between 11-1 at the hospital.

The public deserves to know what the government and the health region are doing, said Morrison. If the support staff are being treated unfairly, the entire health care system suffers.

As for bargaining, the union says its not about to accept concessions.

If the region wants cuts to our contract, we will wait them out, said Morrison. Why should we be in a rush to accept a lesser contract?

When they are ready to bargain seriously, and give employees some respect, we will be at the table.


Contact: Lou Arab

Communications Representative