Preparing for CUPE Job Action-Essential Service Planning

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Preparing for CUPE Job Action-Essential Service Planning


SAHO on behalf of all regional health authorities has entered into collective bargaining with the three provider unions in Saskatchewan who provide technical and support services in RHA facilities. In RQHR, that union is CUPE. This round of bargaining is expected to be difficult and it is important that the region has plans in place to ensure essential services are available in case bargaining results in strike action.

The Saskatchewan Employment Act now requires all public employers including the RQHR to negotiate essential services agreements with its union.  If the negotiations fail an independent tribunal will decide on an essential services agreement to be used in the event of a strike.   Another important change is that employers must use ‘other qualified employees’ and resources to provide essential services before requiring the union to provide its.  This includes full utilization of all non-unionized employees, physicians, retirees, volunteers, community resources and contracting out.

To date, the RQHR is working with the other health regions and the Ministry of Health to prepare for the essential services negotiation.  A working definition of an ‘essential service’ has been developed by a provincial planning committee in order for essential services planning to proceed: 

An ”essential service” is defined as a service the interruption of which: 

  1. a) would threaten serious harm* to the life, personal safety or physical or mental health of the whole or part of the population; or
  2. b) would cause serious harm, or damage to, or deterioration of, property required in the performance of an essential service.

*Serious harm is defined as long-term negative effects or permanent impairment.

It is important to remember that the provision of essential services precludes access to the elective elements of services such as operating room, laboratory, and other diagnostic and therapeutic services.   RQHR physicians and practitioner staff will have an important role to play in ensuring high quality, safe patient care continues in the event of a strike, so understanding your role is important.  You may be asked to work with portfolio/unit leaders and managers to assess situations and patients under significant time pressure.  You will be asked to take responsibility for tasks that would normally fall within the purview of the striking workers.  In the past, physicians have helped with phlebotomy, done more phone to phone or face to face consults, done some portering, accessing one’s own test results or even preparing and completing forms.  It is important to be as fluent as possible with SCM to make things a little easier for everyone during a strike. 

We will continue to provide updates on collective bargaining negotiations and seek physician input as we a work through the finalization of our essential services planning.

Submitted by:  Ingrid Reid, Manager of Labour Relations