Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada

Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada

June 24, 2008 12:00 ET

PIPSC: Whitehorse General Hospital Professional Staff Ready to Strike if Agreement is not Reached

WHITEHORSE, YUKON--(Marketwire - June 24, 2008) - Nurses and other health care professionals at the Whitehorse General Hospital voted overwhelmingly to resort to strike action, if necessary, to support their demands for improved wages and working conditions.

Bargaining between the Hospital and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, the union representing health care professionals, broke off in April. Disagreement over wages and the Hospital's demands for major concessions led to the impasse.

The federal Minister of Labour has ordered the parties back to the table where they will be assisted by a federal conciliation officer. Talks resume today in Whitehorse.

If conciliation is not successful, the health care professionals will be in a legal position to strike before the end of the summer.

James Bart, the Union's negotiator, says that the dissension at the bargaining table is just one more symptom of the Yukon's inept handling of its health care human resources. "Every other jurisdiction in the country recognizes that it is competing for a scarce commodity. Because of shortsighted cuts in the 1990's, there just aren't enough professionals, especially nurses, to meet the demands of an aging population. And it's not going to get any better in the short term."

Saskatchewan has offered its nurses a 35% increase over four years. "That's just to keep up with Alberta," he says. "But we're not asking for anything close to that. Our wage proposal is not out of line with what's happening south of 60. But the Hospital hasn't offered anything in the form of a wage increase."

Michele Demers, President of the Professional Institute believes that the Yukon doesn't recognize its total dependence on attracting health care professionals from other jurisdictions. "It's incomprehensible," she says. "There are no local facilities turning out nurses or pharmacists or dietitians. The health care system has to make the Yukon attractive. The 'magic and the mystery of the Yukon' just doesn't cut it. Why would anyone with marketable skills come up here for less money and deteriorating working conditions? That's the mystery. The magic, I guess, would be to get the bureaucracy to recognize the precariousness of the situation."

Ms. Demers regrets that the Union had to conduct a strike vote. "It's unfortunate that it has come to this. I sincerely hope that conciliation will prove to be successful. If it isn't, our only option appears to be a withdrawal of services in a manner that demonstrates how a shortage of qualified personnel will leave the Hospital unable to provide integral health care services."

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada is a national union representing 55,000 professionals and scientists across Canada, including 150 nurses and other health care professionals at the Whitehorse General Hospital

Contact Information

  • Media Enquiries- In Whitehorse:
    James Bart, Negotiator - 780-860-2482
    (please note that Mr. Bart will be unavailable
    to take calls while in conciliation meetings but will return
    calls during breaks)
    or
    In Ottawa:
    Francine Pressault
    Media and Government Relations Officer
    1-800-267-0446, ext. 2228