We sent a communique on this topic just two weeks ago, but, as we all know, things seem to be changing every day. At that time, the Saskatchewan Party government had announced that other than the Phase 1 health care workers previously announced, all other health care workers would be excluded and lumped into Phase 2, according to the age matrix (February 9, 2021).
There was some significant pushback from CUPE, other health care unions, and professional organizations on the exclusion of heath care workers previously included. On February 16, 2021 the Saskatchewan Party government announced that some health care workers excluded on February 9, 2021 would now be included. The announcement is here. There will be more detailed information in the SHA Rounds next week.
This announcement saw some health care workers moved onto the Phase 1 priority list but still excluded others who are patient-facing health care workers. We will continue to push back against this exclusion of some health care workers. One specific example of a decision that does not make sense to us is that when the reconsideration was made to include immunizers and other support workers being recruited or assigned to this work in immunization clinics (see below for more on this), environmental services workers assigned to the immunization clinics remained excluded. Those workers will be responsible for enhanced cleaning between patients and cleaning all the high touch areas in the immunization clinics, but they did not make the cut for priority immunization.
This week we learned that there is a process, including a form, for requesting a vaccine review if you believe that you were missed in Phase 1. You can access it by contacting your manager and asking for the SHA staff and physician interpretation review form or by calling your local CUPE office. We’ve been told this is for interpretation issues around the Phase 1 announced classifications of health care workers, not for additional classifications of workers to be added to Phase 1.
We continue to advocate for better accessibility to the vaccine in Phase 1. We understand that other provinces have taken a more supportive and progressive position and are paying for health care workers’ time when they are getting immunized outside of work, as well as mileage or parking fees incurred when health care workers are travelling to be vaccinated. Will the SHA better support accessibility to the vaccine?
We know that there are detailed operational plans for the mass vaccination. Despite asking for these plans to be shared with CUPE, we remain in the dark.
What we do know is that there is planning underway to staff the clinics. CUPE supports immunization and vaccine delivery and has been available to the employer for discussions on staffing.
You will remember that a temporary letter of understanding was signed in April 2020. This letter provided for the movement of staff through labour pools, redeployment, and cohorting.
Our position on the immunization staffing is that the employer should do so in a way that is consistent with the collective agreement and that temporary letter of understanding (at least while it is still in effect).
We raised many concerns with the employer when approached about the immunization staffing.
- Safety: That all health care workers must be immunized prior to the clinics opening.
- Workload: That health care workers are tired and spread too thin. We cannot do more with the same resources. We asked for assurances that where workers were moved to the immunization strategy, the work they would have been assigned at their “home” assignment would be backfilled.
- That cohorted workers who were being held “on deck” in long-term care who have been most negatively impacted by the pandemic and cohorting measures be prioritized for the additional work.
- Vacation: We noticed immediately that the SHA’s plan spanned April to September. We asked that the SHA commit to allowing carryover of vacation in 2020 and 2021 with no limits for our members. We know that you are not always able to get vacation during the pandemic and that during the Christmas holiday season the employer was considering denying vacation and revoking approved vacation to ensure safe levels of staffing. We wanted this assurance in writing.
- Concerns with broadcast system and CUPE members being missed: We requested an audit of the participants to ensure that our members were on the appropriate lists for contact and that there is the ability for follow up to see what the issues our members who are not using this system may be experiencing, since this system is not part of our normal scheduling processes. In addition, the broad-based use of AndGo and the broadcast system for self-scheduling immunization clinic shifts is not contemplated by the CUPE collective agreement or the temporary letter of understanding.
All the following remain unresolved with the SHA.
- Environmental services workers assigned to immunization clinics will not be vaccinated.
- There are no assurances that work will be backfilled. There also appears to be no intention to reduce services to create a labour pool to provide immunizations.
- Cohorted workers will not benefit unless they are immunizers. LPNs who are cohorted will be exempted from the cohorting orders. No other CUPE classifications are eligible for the exemption and so will not be included in immunization staffing, even if they are not getting any work.
- Vacation will be as “past practice”. This means whatever they have done in each former region, they will continue to do.
- Broad-based use of the AndGo self-scheduling system will be used for immunization staffing.
This week we were told that the employer was proceeding with their immunization staffing plan without resolving the concerns that CUPE has brought forward and without providing the process in writing to the union.
Yesterday, the SHA publicly messaged other than full-time employees through the SHA Rounds to email expression of interest to be part of the mass immunization campaign.
We believe that they are planning to use the relief staff from public health or whatever other department historically delivered vaccinations as per the collective agreement prior to the other than full-time workers they are canvassing for.
The communication in the SHA Rounds said that other than full-time workers will be “instructed on how shifts will be made available” and how you will be informed of your shifts. We know that you will be told that this is through the AndGo system of self-scheduling, which is not a part of CUPE’s terms and conditions of employment or compliant with the collective agreement or temporary letter of understanding, which calls for the broadcast system to be used as a last resort.
Please understand that we are not standing in the way of the immunization clinics. We are not asking that other than full-time CUPE members not express interest in additional work as per the temporary letter of understanding. We have always encouraged our members to do so. However, we are concerned that the new processes and ongoing confusion will lead to problems and denial of rights to our members. We are doing our best to create a smooth path that sees our members being able to work in as safe and reasonable an environment as possible so that Saskatchewan residents can get vaccinated quickly and efficiently, and we can all put this pandemic behind us that much sooner.
We are always interested in hearing from you on this issue or any other issue that you are facing. Please contact us.
- Main office: 306-546-2185