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Regina: CUPE and two other unions representing 25,000 health workers in Saskatchewan broke off pay equity contract talks July 24, after learning the government had imposed a funding cap of 10 per cent of payroll.

The unions, which have been working on the joint job evaluation plan for more than three years, are warning the NDP Calvert government must remove the cap, or pay the price at election time.

There is no way our members will accept the Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations (SAHO) proposal to red-circle 65 per cent of the jobs to stay within the 10 per cent mandate, says Steve Foley, president of the Saskatchewan Health Care Council, which represents about 12,000 CUPE members covered by the plan. Our members havent waited this long for this little, he adds.

For years, the government has been promising health support workers hard hit by health care restructuring that the new job evaluation plan would provide pay equity and fix internal wage disparities. In some classifications, for example, there are as many as 20 different rates of pay.

Now, three long years later, weve got the plan to provide wage parity and pay equity and the government has slapped a cap on the funds. Thats morally and politically bankrupt, says SEIU spokesperson Sharleen Stewart.

Under the job evaluation plan, two of the largest classifications licensed practical nurses and special care aides/ home health aides require significant pay increases, which could amount to 10 per cent of payroll.

SAHO is prepared to give these two classifications the equity increases, but they want to make everyone else pay for it, explains Foley.

Under SAHOs scheme, 82 of the 150 female dominated jobs and 72 of the 87 male-dominated jobs would be red-circled.

Aina Kagis of the Pay Equity Coalition of Saskatchewan says the government must pay the full cost of addressing wage discrimination. Health workers in female-dominated jobs have been paying the price for years in reduced wages and pensions benefits. Its time the government paid the bill.