Government of Saskatchewan denies career assistance to laid off Valley View Centre workers during tough round of bargaining

In the wake of a bargaining impasse, the Government of Saskatchewan announced a new round of sweeping layoff notices this week to CUPE Local 600 members working at Valley View Centre.

The Government of Saskatchewan served notice to terminate the employment of 36 employees in several different classifications, including nursing, dietary, housekeeping, and scheduling staff. In total, 24 permanent full time, nine permanent part time, and three term employees were served with layoff notices. Since the announcement of the closure of Valley View Centre, a total of 80 positions have been eliminated. Only one term out-of-scope position has been eliminated during this time.

However, the union representing these employees, CUPE Local 600, says it was shocked and extremely disappointed when the Government of Saskatchewan indicated that career options assistance would not be provided to laid off employees who opt to resign. “At no point in our 26 days of bargaining did the Government of Saskatchewan bargaining committee suggest that career options would not continue into the new collective agreement or would not be offered to laid off employees,” says Guy Marsden, CUPE national representative.

Career options assistance for retraining, relocation, or enhanced severance has been a part of the collective agreement since 1995. “Not all of our members who will receive layoff notices or be bumped will be ready to retire. Career options assistance is critical to helping these members transition to new careers with another employer,” said Jacalyn Luterbach, president of CUPE Local 600-3. “Our members deserve much better from the Government of Saskatchewan for their many years of dedicated service.” The layoffs were announced shortly after the union served the Government of Saskatchewan with a written notice of impasse on April 11, after 26 days of bargaining failed to produce a tentative agreement.

A labour relations officer has been appointed to help the parties reach a tentative agreement. Conciliation talks are set to begin May 5 to 6 in Moose Jaw.

“Due to the difficult nature of this round of bargaining, CUPE concluded that the parties had reached a point where a tentative agreement could not be reached without the assistance of a mediator or conciliator,” said Marsden. “We did not taken this decision lightly, but the employer committee is demanding major concessions and has not addressed many of the union’s key priorities.”

The collective agreement covers workers at Moose Jaw’s Valley View Centre and Community Living Service Delivery staff at a range of facilities and programs across the province (CUPE Local 600-3) and North Battleford’s Sask. Hospital (CUPE Local 600-5). All worksites are administered under one collective agreement, which is bargained with the Public Service Commission.

“As Valley View Centre and Sask. Hospital continue to downsize, we ask for dignity and respect for all members whose jobs will ultimately be abolished and for members whose jobs will continue into the future,” said Luterbach. “We are committed to negotiating a fair collective agreement for all members. We are hopeful that the conciliation process will result in a fair deal for our members.”

The current collective agreement expired September 30, 2015.