This morning the union representing Saskatchewan's professional health workers brought
their pickets to Tisdale as they marched in front of Tisdale's hospital and this
afternoon will be picketing the regional health office.
This relatively small union of 2,500 workers, which includes everything from hospital
pharmacists to psychologists and paramedics has severely crippled the whole delivery
and additional services of the medical care programme in the province.
The Union had only resorted
to strike action when it was clear that the Saskatchewan Association of Health
Organisations (SAHO) headed by Louise Simard refused to bargain
with the group. The case went to court and the court found in favour of the group
siting the provincial organisation, SAHO for having bargained in bad faith.
The next step was an attempt at mediation which failed simply because the SAHO
refused to budge and made an offer of 21% over five years which essentially
would mean a salary cut as this group of workers have been underpaid for years
and inflation would consume the meager salary offer. The Union is demanding 34%
over three years which will still see their people paid far below neighbouring
provinces and about 50% below workers in the private sector.
The provincial government is saying that it is not its problem, that the responsibility
for doing the negotiations rests with the highly paid individuals in the SAHO
who apparently could care less about Saskatchewan's people, as they have brought
a series of strikes to the province, as they front for the government's clear policy
to destroy publicly funded medical care in the province.
These people on this picket line reported that recruiters from neighbouring provinces
are approaching their members and they feel that this strike will simply fade away
as most of the people now on strike go elsewhere to work. Yesterday, Manitoba
and Alberta recruiters were doing on the picket line interviews in Saskatoon.
One shocking affect of this disassembly of the union membership
as they leave for work elsewhere, is that a majority of them are married to health
workers and when they leave, with them goes their nurse spouse and the whole system
becomes even more understaffed.
Most of the people on strike at this time were in positions were there were many
vacancies, as their fellow workers had already bailed out. This, of course, was contributing
significantly to the unhappiness among these people as they were overworked and can
see that they are also underpaid.
This young woman's sign is particularly telling as she states that "she would
rather be working." Career studies have shown repeatedly that people who enter
professions like these, are extremely dedicated to what they do. Having made a huge
investment in education, they seek employment that will offer them the maximum opportunity
to help people. When it comes right down to it, these studies show that people who
have this kind of motivation, place job satisfaction way above wages. With the attrition
from loss of people who simply can not justify attempting to raise their families
on Saskatchewan wages, the work force is depleted and the main thing these people
rely upon, "helping people" is undermined and they have sadly reached the
point where they must go on strike.
This is a new union and this is its first strike ever as its members were members
of other unions in the past and as a new union, it does not have the funds to maintain
a long and protracted fight. Each member receives $20 a day strike pay if
they show up to picket, so that earning less than an hour's wages a day is placing
extreme financial pressure on them. This pressure and the many jobs elsewhere at
so much higher wages, will see the numbers in this union practically vanish if this
strike lasts more than a month.
Once these people have accepted offers either in the private sector, or out of province,
they will not be returning. Their skill and training, their dedication to their
work and the people of this province will be lost.
The Saskatchewan health care system is already reeling from the reorganization from
districts to regions with extreme shortages of nurses, overworked doctors, city hospitals
which are practically incapable of handling as many as the number of victims from
a single car accident, waiting lists that are the longest in the country and now
this strike, with the results of it, causing the loss of perhaps as high as thirty
to fifty percent of its work force.
Saskatchewan is not faced with the lack of money in the health care system, it has developed a completely
dysfunctional structure, where the management of the system has moved from the on
the spot health care professionals, to business commerce graduates, who call themselves
"corporations" and apply, as the head of the professional health care workers
union president, said this morning on CBC radio, the ethics of business to
the administration of medical care. They have been taught in their commerce courses
to "get the better" of their competitor and are ill equipped to manage
a publicly funded and service organisation.
With out the immediate disbanding of SAHO and the ridiculous health regions,
if you plan to care for yourself and your family, you better get a health insurance
plan that will give you care in North Dakota or perhaps the two neighbouring
provinces, because in Saskatchewan, the government has successfully organised the
system into chaos.