SAHO ‘best offer’ not enough for HSAS

The Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations (SAHO) presented the Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan (HSAS) on Friday with the employers’ “best offer.”

However, the union says SAHO must improve its best offer.

Cathy Dickson, president of HSAS, was disgusted SAHO made the offer on the same day the union learned the annual base salary of Saskatoon Health Region CEO Maura Davies, like her counterpart at the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region, will rise to $376,700 -not including benefits and allowances.

“SAHO and the government have a double standard when it comes to health-care negotiations,” Dickson said. “There’s huge increases in salary and benefits for senior health-care managers and non-competitive increases for the professionals who actually provide healthcare services.”

SAHO’s latest offer includes general wage increases of two per cent, 1.5 per cent, two per cent and two per cent over four years and expands the number of classifications that would receive a market adjustment to include dietitian/nutritionist and recreation therapist.

Market-adjusted rates have already been proposed in six other occupational groups: pharmacist, psychologist, paramedic, assessor/co-ordinator, occupational therapist and physical therapist.

Besides the wage increases, SAHO has proposed to guarantee the current level of benefits covered under the Extended Health and Dental Plan until March 31, 2013, and increase northern annual retention payments by up to 15 per cent. The proposal limits retroactive pay to two years as of March 31, 2011.

“We provided them with what we’re calling our best offer,” said Susan Antosh, SAHO president. “We have indicated to them that although we believe this is kind of the parameters of which a settlement could be reached we do have a little bit of room to move, but it’s very little.”

She said the out-of-scope compensation plan was intended to deal with market-competitive wages.

“We established minimums and maximums for the whole range of positions that were out of scope,” Antosh said. “The reality is that overall for the entire out-of-scope group the total increase to compensation was in the range of five per cent.”

She said individual employers are responsible for determining the wages for CEOs.

Dickson acknowledged the proposed 7.5per-cent wage increase is an improvement over the 5.5-per-cent SAHO offered on Feb. 22.

That offer was rejected by HSAS and memers voted to give their negotiators an 88-perent strike mandate.

However, Dickson is upset that nurses will see a wage increase this year that will equal what is being offered to HSAS employees over four years.

“The employers’ goal is to ensure that we’re providing market-competitive wages and by that we mean market competitive in western Canadian health care to all of the workers within the health-care system,” Antosh said.

“The offer that was made to registered nurses related to what was required in order to be market competitive in that group. What we have offered to HSAS allows us to be market competitive for that group.”

HSAS represents about 3,000 health workers in more than 30 specialties including paramedics, hospital pharmacists, perfusionists, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, speech language pathologists, public-health inspectors, psychologists and social workers.

Dickson said the revised proposal lacks maternity-leave benefits for HSAS members and no improvement to the stand-by wage rates for EMS workers.

“They’re talking wages, but they’re not talking benefits, so there is a ways to go,” Dickson said.

Antosh countered that those issues should be identified at the bargaining table.

HSAS and SAHO are scheduled to meet March 22 and 23 in Regina.

By Pamela Cowan
The Regina Leader-Post

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