Putting Workers Last in Health Authority Transition

April 11, 2024

For all the emphasis on “Putting People First” with the promise of better healthcare for all Yukoners and of course establishing “the Yukon as a workplace of choice for health professionals” in the Yukon’s Health and Human Resource Strategy… it’s greatly disturbing that Bill 38, The Health Authority Act has been tabled with no prior consultation with the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) union representing workers at Yukon Hospital Corporation, as heard during the legislative debate on April 10, 2024.

Based on feedback from two unions impacted by the implementation of a Yukon Health Authority, the consultation with unions and the workers directly impacted by this has been “horrendous”.   The lack of engagement and appearance of the government pushing forward to establish a Health Authority without meaningful engagement, consultation or consideration for the unions representing workers providing our health care services, is already sending red flags for a successful or considerate transition.  

The unions should already have representation on any committees or working groups that are planning this transition.  The representation of the unions needs to be part of the transition process, and not just one or two meetings with a CEO or Director.  Effective consultation is not a meeting where government or employers simply share information or advise of how they are proceeding. There needs to be dialogue, and opportunity for discussion and feedback to shape the direction of healthcare. This requires addressing the chronic understaffing of healthcare, as most union representatives in locals are also the front line workers, without time to adequately digest and respond to these significant and fast rolling changes. The Unions’ representation needs to be involved in all conversations and aspects of this transition.  We know that a health care crisis, damaging internal effects of massive agency nursing and abuse of casual workers also need to be adequately addressed in order for meaningful consultation. 

YFL President Teresa Acheson, wrote to the Minister of Health & Social Services, saying “we urge the Yukon Government to ensure meaningful engagement with unions and worker representation in the transition to a health authority in Yukon.

“As the voice of workers across various sectors in Yukon, the Yukon Federation of Labour emphasizes the crucial role that unions play in safeguarding the rights and interests of workers. In transitioning to a health authority, it is imperative that the perspectives of frontline healthcare workers, who are at the core of delivering quality care to Yukon residents, are actively sought and valued.”

Effective engagement with unions will not only foster a collaborative approach to the transition process but also ensure that the expertise and insights of workers are integrated into the decision-making processes. By involving unions and worker representation, the Yukon Government can promote a smoother transition that prioritizes the well-being of both healthcare professionals and the communities they serve.  A successful new Health Authority must prioritize Putting People First, addressing concerns such as the healthcare crises, extensive agency nursing, and casual worker abuse. All employees (including casuals) should be defined as employees and have the right of union representation in a new Health Authority.  

The Yukon Federation of Labour calls for a commitment to a transparent and inclusive approach that includes regular consultations with unions, mechanisms for feedback from workers, and opportunities for meaningful input into the development and implementation of policies related to the health authority transition, including representation on Advisory Committees, Transformation Networks, and any other working groups.  This must include the existing unions representing healthcare workers directly impacted by the creation of a Health Authority including the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC). 

The unions must be actively involved in all aspects and discussions throughout the transition process.  These engagements must not just be government briefing unions on how they will be engaged or how a health authority will be established, but must allow for input, feedback and shaping of policy, legislation, and direction from those that represent the workers.  

The front line workers such as nurses, social workers, EMT’s, all know their patients best and they are best informed to advise on what is needed for the care of Yukoners. Only by working together with unions and prioritizing worker representation, will a new Health Authority be more sustainable and an effective healthcare system that meets the needs of all Yukoners.

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