Workers at the territory’s three hospitals voted to strike if contract negotiations this week don’t go well. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Hospital workers are prepared to strike

‘They’ve had enough’

Roughly 250 hospital workers “overwhelmingly” voted in favour of going out on strike, depending on how negotiations go this week.

“To me, it says they’re fed up with the workload, being burnt out and having to use time off to recoup from working,” said Steve Geick, the president of the Yukon Employees’ Union (YEU). “They’re continually being asked to do more with less. They’ve had enough.”

Negotiations between the YEU, the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Yukon Hospital Corporation (YHC) are slated for Feb. 14 and 15. A federal mediator will be present.

Workers that are part of the unions include licensed practical nurses, X-ray and lab technicians and administrative staff in hospitals in Whitehorse, Dawson City and Watson Lake.

Geick said the breakdown of the strike vote is confidential.

The contract in question expired in August 2017, with bargaining beginning in November of that year.

Either party can serve a 72-hour strike or lockout notice, but it doesn’t automatically engage when talks at the bargaining table end, Geick said.

“From the time we actually get the mandate to go out on strike, we have 60 days from that time in order to go out,” he said, noting action could take different forms like rotating strikes.

Geick said both parties can extend conciliation talks, but the hospital wasn’t willing to do so, meaning there’s much hanging on the Feb. 14 and 15 negotiations.

Matt Davidson, spokesperson for the YHC, said the plan is to keep everyone at the bargaining table, noting that this is the fifth round.

“We continue to keep the lines of communication open,” he said. “I can’t really comment on specific offers, but can say there’s common ground on some proposals and we continue to participate in the collective bargaining process in good faith.”

Last week, he told this newspaper a contingency plan exists in the event of a strike, but didn’t provide specific details. Davidson had said essential services wouldn’t be impacted.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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