The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Contract talks reach impasse for Saskatchewan health workers: union

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SASKATOON - The union for specialized health-care workers in Saskatchewan says contract talks with the employer have reached an impasse.

Karen Wasylenko (wahs-ih-LEHN'-kow) of the Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan says the two sides were finding some common ground.

But she says the Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations, also called SAHO, suddenly cancelled four days of talks.

Wasylenko says the next step is for a provincial mediator to be brought in.

That was tried in April, but the mediator was unsuccessful.

SAHO CEO Doug Forseth says the employer was trying to find new dates for talks, but he adds SAHO is fine with a mediator.

"We don't necessarily believe that negotiations are at an impasse yet .. we remain committed to reaching a fair agreement," he said Thursday.

"We'll engage in any process that's forthcoming as a result of that application."

Still, Waylenko wonders why SAHO cancelled the talks that had already been scheduled.

"We're just a little puzzled as to why — when we have been forthright, co-operative, coming to the table, agreeing to what they want — after four dates they now cancel it with no reason."

All the union was told was that there were "circumstances beyond the control of the committee," she said.

A mediator is one of the only choices left to the union, Wasylenko said.

"This is our option to get them to the table to collectively ... bargain an agreement. That's what our members want and this is what we had to do in order to get to that process."

The health sciences association represents more than 3,600 health- care workers, including paramedics, hospital pharmacists, occupational therapists, acute-care workers and public health inspectors.

The workers have been without a contract since March of last year.

They have already voted 85 per cent in favour of a strike.

(CJWW, The Canadian Press)

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