Health authority warned against negotiating directly with employees

Discussion of wage repayments before settlement with union could upset labour relations balance, board says
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today

The Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board has ordered a group of regional health authorities and employers to stop negotiating directly with employees until a dispute with its unions over the collection of wage overpayments has been settled.

The Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union, Canadian Union of Public Employees and three branches of the Service Employees International Union filed a complaint with the board when the province’s various health employers, organized under the umbrella of the Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations (SAHO), bypassed the union in negotiating the collection of wage overpayments from its employees. The union claimed the employers were attempting to unilaterally change the terms of employment and asked the board to issue an order to stop the members of SAHO from negotiating directly with employees until the matter was resolved.

The wage overpayments originated from a joint job evaluation (JJE) process developed by SAHO and the union in 1999, which was intended to standardize job classifications in the provincial health care system. The JJE was implemented in 2002 and a new wage structure came into effect in 2004. In June 2005, the employers began trying to reclaim what they considered wage overpayments of those positions whose salaries were decreased in the new wage structure. They began meeting with affected employees to calculate the amount owing and how to pay it back, which they proposed could be through wage deduction or withholding disability benefits.