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Unions frustrated by lack of consultation with Health P.E.I. | CBC News

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Four unions representing various health-care workers on the Island have signed a letter addressed to the government and Health P.E.I. expressing their frustration with what they call “lip service” meetings with their employer about the deteriorating health system.

Union reps say management is not following collective agreements in some cases. 

Tracy Robertson, president of the local International Union of Operating Engineers that represents 1,300 administration workers, lab technicians, physical therapists and others, said staff morale is low and getting worse because unions aren’t being informed about changes such as when new temporary workers are brought in. 

“It’s very hard for us to trust and to work with the employer when we don’t get actual consultation like we should be getting,” she said.

“They just spring things on us and tell us this is how it’s going to work and it doesn’t always go with what we’ve already agreed to in the collective agreements. It does affect the morale and that will… affect staff and then, in turn, affect the public.”

Robertson said the government brings in not only travel nurses, but travel respiratory therapists and physiotherapists, without notifying the union. They are hired from agencies, usually on short term, incentive-laden contracts, to fill gaps in staffing. 

“If you know a person is getting paid twice, three times as much [and] getting their housing paid for, it’s not a good feeling.” 

Woman sitting at computer.
Tracy Robertson, whose union represents 1,300 workers in the health-care system, says the lack of consultation has a negative effect on morale. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Barbara Brookins, president of the P.E.I. Nurses’ Union, said there are “a lot of eggs being thrown into the basket.”

“We’re looking at physician assistants, and associate physicians, we’re looking at midwives and internationally educated nurses and they’re all great ideas, but the unions have to be included because we have collective agreements… they have to be integrated into the system that’s already there now.”

The unions, which also include Union of Public Sector Employees and Canadian Union of Public Employees, said at a time when there are shortages in health care, regular staff and front-line workers need to feel valued and informed. 

“The plan is almost in place or almost ready and they want our input, we’re coming in at the last second and it’s too late,” said Chris Lewis of CUPE.

In an email to CBC, Health P.E.I. said it regularly meets with union leadership, and that “suggestions are incorporated into decision-making wherever possible.”

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