President’s Message: JJE, LOU, and Teleconferences

Welcome back from your holiday break and Happy New Year to you and your families. There’s much to look forward to and also reflect on; I’m not a big resolution maker, however, I do look at how I can improve in work and personal areas. But I also reflect on the past year and what we have been able to do together; what had a positive impact and what didn’t hit the mark.

One of the things that I believe had a positive impact were a series of teleconferences we held with members affected by the changes to the Joint Job Evaluation Education (JJE) factor rating changes. We met with members from the Diagnostic Imaging family of classifications and Recreation Coordinators. In both instances, the concern in part was that the JJE reviewed the hours required for education due to a reduction in the number of classroom hours by the education institutions. This reduction, in turn, reduced the pay band for a number of classifications – not all of them, but some of them. Our Union rep, Tracy Goodheart, had met previously with groups in the admin and finance family of classifications with similar concerns.

I think we can all agree that every single person who works in health care brings incredible value and team work to our system. So when we see the reduction in pay of any of our members due to changes to JJE ratings, we take a good hard look at what was done, why it was done and how can we best manage the issues. I don’t believe anyone foresaw the educational institutions dramatically reducing classroom hours or making the changes they did to some entrance prerequisites, without consulting the people who would be affected. Such dramatic change to the education system should not change the value of the work performed and quite simply, we see this as a de-valuing of the jobs – as the required skills and knowledge remain the same. Adding to this is the fact that new processes, equipment and knowledge are introduced regularly in a world-class health system like ours and now members of certain classifications are required to fulfill on-going education requirements. The JJE plan needs to take the additional requirements into account to ensure that the integrity of the job evaluation plan is maintained.

In our SAHO/SEIU-West Bargaining update no. 9, we shared with our members that we had focused on this problem for a series of bargaining dates. In the end, we were able to negotiate a Letter of Understanding (LOU) that set in place a thorough review of the JJE plan. As part of that LOU, there is a moratorium on implementing the reduction in pay band changes because of education factor changes and at the same time, we reached agreement that where pay bands went up, the changes would be implemented. Further to that, we have included a process where, after the JJE plan review and the application of the new job factors by the maintenance committee, where pay bands do not return to their former levels, implementation would be stopped for three months so that we can negotiate the need for a market adjustment or supplement to address recruitment and retention issues.

Ultimately, we are competing for skilled health care professionals from across western Canada, but also across the country. We’ve asked for any supporting information that shows that our members, or potential members, are looking to leave Saskatchewan which will impact recruitment and retention strategies. We need to always be diligent that the JJE processes do not exacerbate already existing interprovincial pay inequities. If you have any of this information, please share it with me at barb.cape@seiuwest.ca and I will ensure that our JJE review committee members get a copy.

The job evaluation plan is a solid one, but it hasn’t had an in-depth review for over 15 years. This LOU for a JJE plan review will allow us to dig into where we need to make improvements and address any deficiencies in the plan.
In some of the conference calls, there were questions about SUN and HSAS not being a part of the JJE plan – that is correct. Our JJE plan is only for the health care provider unions of SEIU-West, CUPE, and SGEU.

In our conference calls, there was a lot of enthusiasm for assisting in this job evaluation plan review…and I can tell you that we appreciate the interest and offers. We are limited in the number of people we can have on the review committee and this review is not just for those affected classifications, but for the whole plan. So we have named Bob Laurie, Director of Contract Bargaining and Enforcement and Russ Doell, Deputy Director of Contract Bargaining and Enforcement, to this committee. And we have taken the names of those volunteers who’ve indicated that they would act as a resource for specific classifications. These people would be a resource to provide information only for a specific meeting or period of time if called upon by the committee.

There are no guarantees that we will see increases to pay bands – I don’t want to mislead any of you; pay bands may go up; they may stay where they are; or they may be reduced. But we want to ensure a fair review process that members can understand and engage in.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the members of those classifications who requested and joined our conference calls. Having a meeting like this before a busy time like a holiday break is never ideal, but there was a lot of interest and questions and information provided to everyone on the call. Further to that, a number of our members wrote to their elected MLA’s who sit in the Legislature, outlining the recruitment and retention issues this raises and also identifying how this would impact patient-centered care – this was brilliant as it assisted all parties in moving to an agreement on this LOU so quickly. So I salute each one of you who took the time to ask questions and engage on this issue.

We haven’t shared the actual LOU as it is jointly signed by our coalition partners, CUPE and SGEU, along with SAHO. We would need to seek their agreement to sharing and will do so in the coming days.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our Member Resource Center (MRC) at 1-888-999-7348 ext. 2298.

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