Bill 44, The Health "Superboard" Act

The Minister of Health and Social Services has announced the GNWT’s intention to integrate the 8 regional health and social service authorities into a single NWT authority responsible for overseeing the entire health and social services system.  The 1,420 full and part-time employees of the authorities will be affected (Active Position Summary attached).
 
The proposal was publicly announced in August 2014 with the release of a discussion paper, “Caring for Our People—Improving the NWT Health and Social Services System. 
Ministerial briefing documents say the integration project is being run by “a project steering committee and management office…with continued consultation with HSS staff and stakeholders” and that “the department has collaborated with the HR department and engaged the Union of Northern Workers around the system transformation activities.”
 
In various public statements, the Minister has said “this is not about cutting jobs.  Regional staffing allocations will not change” and “we do not propose to eliminate any positions, and we do not intend to move positions out of regions or communities”.  
 
February 15, 2015 ministerial briefing documents say “there will be some impact to current employees as a result of the…changes in terms of employee reporting relationships”, that  “it is premature to identify the nature, scope and impact the changes may have…until we have fully planned the organizational design” and that “examining specific impacts to current employees will take place over the next few months as we proceed with a detailed organizational plan” with a proposed implementation date of “early 2016”.
 
The documents say “implementation planning for bringing the Hay River Authority into the Public Service will be developed in 2015/16.  The UNW is filing detailed, separate submissions to Committee on the Bill’s Hay River HSSA provisions
 
Legislation to enable the change was introduced in the Legislative Assembly February 5: the Act to Amend the Hospital Insurance and Health and Social Services Administration Act which would create:
  • A single NWT Health and Social Services Authority
  • Regional Wellness Councils in regions that now have HSSA’s (to “provide advice on local and regional program delivery”)
  • A Territorial Board of Management
 
Bill 44 has been referred to the Standing Committee on Social Programs, which intends to carry out one round of public review in April before consideration and possible passage of the law in the May 2015 Assembly session
 

Read The UNW's April 20 presentation to the Legislative Assembly Committee reviewing Bill 44 

Issues

The Bill is Unconstitutional:  

  • The UNW does not object to the fundamental aims of Bill 44.  
  • However, we do object to the legislation's attempt to eliminate the collective bargaining gains of workers, without prior consultation with or notice to their unions. We object also to the haste with which this Bill is being rushed towards passage.  
  • It is our view that in its current form, this Bill is unconstitutional.  It fails to respect jurisprudence of Supreme Court of Canada decisions which have enshrined the right of Canadian workers to collective bargaining.
  • Our major concern is with the effects of the proposals on current employees of the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority.
  • The Government refuses to assume any liability for the rights, benefits and entitlements of the HRHSSA workers prior to joining the NWT public service
  • The way this is being implemented endangers the seniority-based entitlements of employees, their pension entitlements, and extinguishes their potential entitlements in currently ongoing grievance proceedings
  • A better approach would have been to provide for the protection of the collectively bargained entitlements of workers through a clearly legislated succession of those entitlements. Any changes should have been sought through a meaningful process of collective bargaining.
Investigations, Audits, Inspections:
  • Bill 44 will establish new powers of investigation, inspection, audit and quality assurance
  • Such investigations may have employment related consequences for employees, such as possible discipline or discharge in the event of findings of misconduct.  
  • The UNW believes the legislation must be amended to provide for a right of union representation and union assistance to employees during any investigations, inspections or audits
Potential Loss of Positions:
  • Despite ministerial assurances, the UNW’s main concern is that amalgamation of eight authorities may result in some loss of positions
  • UNW members are devoted to ensuring clients received the highest quality health care.  There must be no loss or disruptions in services vital to the well-being of patients  
  • Good GNWT jobs, staffed up with few vacancies are essential to the economic health of many communities
  • The economic consequences of a poor transition could be very harmful to communities dependent upon government employment for prosperity
  • Economies of scale in support positions such as purchasing, HR, administration, as well as diagnostic, medical travel, records management and other newly-created shared services will may result in staff reductions
  • Careful planning and cautious implementation are essential to patient care and economic health 
Lack of Time and Haste of Passage:
  • The new law for massive system restructuring of one of our most critical public services was introduced in the last nine months of this Assembly mandate, and is slated for completion in 2016
  • Fast tracking of passage of the legislation in the dying days of this Assembly prevents the cautious, analytical and consultative consideration such major change demands
  • Health care is too important for changes to be rushed simply because the work was started too late in one Assembly.  If the government believes the changes have merit, they can be confident the initiative will be carried over into the next Assembly.  
Staff Redeployment and Retention:
  • Depending upon the amalgamation of agencies, redefinition of positions and the creation of new service delivery models, there is the potential for many workers to lack the skills required for the new service delivery structure
  • There is also the potential for redeployment of some employees to different work locations, to meet the demands of new organizational models.  
  • Union-management partnership is essential to a smooth transition, and avoiding disputes.  We repeat the call for cooperative work involving labour and management
  • The provisions of the HR Staff Retention Policy will need to be aggressively and flexibly applied to assist affected workers in adaptation to the new single authority and its regional operations