Labour group says unions frozen out of talks over new Yukon health authority

Looking across the Yukon River at the Whitehorse hospital. (Paul Tukker/CBC - image credit)
Looking across the Yukon River at the Whitehorse hospital. (Paul Tukker/CBC - image credit)

The Yukon Federation of Labour says the unions representing the territory's hospital workers have been excluded from the creation of the new Health Authority Act.

Once the act passes in the legislative assembly, a new health authority will eventually replace the Yukon Hospital Corporation. The authority will be in charge of delivering acute care.

According to a news release from the Yukon Federation of Labour on Thursday, the proposed legislation was written without consulting the union workers who will be employed by the authority. The federation called the consultation "horrendous" said it was "already sending red flags for a successful or considerate transition."

Teresa Acheson, president of the federation, says the lack of consultation with unions does not bode well for the health authority's sustainability and success. In an interview on Friday, Acheson said that union workers deserve space at the decision-making table – and information-sharing meetings don't qualify as consultation.

"We really hope that there's going to be a change in the direction of this," Acheson said. "This is something that needs worker input and union input."

Acheson said she is particularly interested in the definition of employees in the new legislation. Currently, there are some casual employees under the current labour relations act who do not have union representation, unlike casual employees represented by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada who are represented.

"All workers should have the right to union representation," Acheson said.

Health minister says some consultation did happen

Speaking in the legislature on Tuesday, Health Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee said her department had met with the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) for the first time that day, but the government had met with the Yukon Employees Union (YEU) 21 times since February 2022.

PIPSC represents registered nurses, pharmacists, social workers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and dieticians. The YEU (or PSAC) represents some support service roles including practical nurses, administration, medical imaging, custodial, food and laboratory services.

According to McPhee, it was the hospital corporation's responsibility to engage with PIPSC, because affected staff are hospital corp. employees.

"We did provide information to the hospital corporation and expected that information to be passed on," McPhee said on Tuesday.

"We were very careful about interacting with that union [PIPSC] particularly because those employees do not work for the department of Health and Social Services, and, perhaps more importantly, they were in bargaining."

There are 12 public meetings planned for all employees in April, including meetings in Dawson City and Watson Lake, McPhee says. Recordings of those meetings will also be available at request.

Employees can ultimately expect a lateral move to the new health authority, McPhee says.

"For many of the employees, it will simply be a change of employer with no changes whatsoever to their employment," McPhee said.

Collective agreement rights will apply regarding offers of transfer and layoff provisions.

"I should emphasize that pay benefits and pension benefits will transfer with them from one position to another," McPhee said, adding that pension plans "are being assessed based on a set of evaluation criteria that includes comparable benefits to current plans."