Hospital award draws doubts from union

The Yukon Hospital Corporation will be one of Canada's top 100 employers next year.

The Yukon Hospital Corporation will be one of Canada’s top 100 employers next year.

The award, handed out by publishing company Mediacorp, credits the hospital’s stellar location and amenities, as well as staff benefits, for the win.

But the union representing hospital workers – currently in a protracted contract battle with managers – was stunned by the news.

“If that’s what it takes to be in the top 100, we question what these other places are like,” said Laurie Butterworth, president of the Yukon Employees’ Union.

Mediacorp praises the hospital’s gym, religious observance room, cafeteria and employee lounges.

“Lots of that stuff is already there because it’s a hospital,” said Butterworth.

The submission for the award was written by administration. Hospital corporation CEO Joe MacGillivray couldn’t be contacted for an interview by press time.

The union represents everybody at the hospital except nurses and doctors. That includes janitors, lab techs, kitchen staff and boiler room workers.

The union had no input in the award submission, said Butterworth.

And some of the accolades in the award are things the union is fighting to defend.

Mediacorp says the hospital’s benefit pension plan offers workers stability in retirement.

“So it would be really good if they quit attacking it,” said Butterworth.

The union and the hospital met last month to negotiate a new three-year contract.

But the talks hit a snag over essential services – the job positions that would remain staffed during a strike.

A negotiator from Labour Canada is expected to mediate the talks in December, said Butterworth.

The hospital’s maternity leave benefits are another reason for the win. Mediacorp’s website says the hospital pays 93 per cent of the new parent’s salary for 17 weeks.

“It was a hard fight in our last bargaining round to get that out of them,” said Butterworth.

“They were way behind the Yukon government for parental.”

The hospital also gives new workers a four-week vacation a year, but that’s the same as the Yukon government, he said.

There are currently 10 to 15 active grievances between the union and the hospital, said Butterworth.

Because negotiations are currently underway, the grievances are sent to a third-party adjudicator for the time being.

Mediacorp was impressed by the vacation and bonuses workers get at the hospital.

Workers get a $2,000 Yukon bonus for having worked at the hospital after their first year.

Staff benefit from flexible working hours, telecommuting and a shortened work week.

There’s also vacation increases after four years.

Long-serving staff get a maximum of seven weeks off and anyone can apply for an unpaid leave of absence.

The hospital will also pay for up to $1,000 in subsidies for school training for employees.

There are 170 full time workers at the hospital and 107 working on a part-time basis.

There were over 900 applications for jobs at the hospital last year.

It’s not clear whether the staffing levels reflect the corporation’s current mandate or the future hospitals in Watson Lake and Dawson City.

The presumptuous award is meant for what the corporation’s conditions will be like next year.

The submission for the award describes the corporation as running all three hospitals.

Contact James Munson at jamesm@yukon-news.com

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