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Regina: More than 12,000 CUPE health care workers began job action at 5 a.m. this morning, after SAHO refused to offer any concessions on the unions priority issues.

We spent 12 hours yesterday attempting to resolve just two contract clauses, just two, states an angry John Welden, the unions chief negotiator. And even though we moved miles from our original position withdrawing our request for reduced annual hours of work, the equivalent of a 5/4 SAHO didnt move a muscle.

The full-scale strike by CUPE members affects hospitals, long-term care facilities, home care, and community health in 18 health districts and the Athabasca Health Authoritys Uranium City Hospital.

Welden says after two days of intense bargaining, he seriously doubts SAHO is capable of concluding a provincial agreement. We went to the table hoping to fix the problems in the health care system. But SAHO doesnt want changes. They want the status quo. They want to maintain total power and control.

The unions chief negotiator says SAHOs position at the bargaining table is disgraceful. There are more than 12,000 CUPE members on strike today because SAHO bargaining committee members are much more concerned with protecting their jobs and pensions, than improving the jobs and pensions of front line health workers.

Steve Foley, President of the CUPE Health Care Council, also had harsh words for SAHO. Why have our members been forced to take job action to achieve basic improvements such as manageable workloads and decent pensions? SAHOs responsible for this strike and must be held accountable, says Foley.

CUPE health care workers are employed in five major classification areas: clerical, technical, nursing, support and plant operations.

The CUPE members are providing coverage for emergency situations in the health districts during the strike.

Welden says the union has dropped many important issues from the bargaining table over the past four months in an effort to conclude an agreement. We cant back up any further. We are at the wall.

He says the union negotiating committee is prepared to return to the bargaining table when there is someone on the other side prepared to address the problems and conclude an agreement. Thats clearly not SAHO, he states.

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For more information, contact after 3 p.m.:
Steve Foley: 306 546-2185
John Welden: 306 591-1426 (cell #)