Health P.E.I. offering workers extra cash to cover summer vacations

Barbara Brookins, president of the P.E.I. Nurses' Union, says her union was first to strike a deal with Health P.E.I. on Friday.   (Wayne Thibodeau/CBC - image credit)
Barbara Brookins, president of the P.E.I. Nurses' Union, says her union was first to strike a deal with Health P.E.I. on Friday. (Wayne Thibodeau/CBC - image credit)

Health P.E.I. is offering some health-care workers more money to take on additional shifts this summer, especially during evenings, weekends and holidays.

It's hoped the move will make it easier for other health workers to take vacation this summer.

But union leaders are concerned it may create even more problems.

Barbara Brookins, president of the P.E.I. Nurses' Union, is hopeful the new incentives will help. Her union was first to strike a deal with Health P.E.I. on Friday.

Health P.E.I. missed the deadline to post vacation schedules by June 1 because of what it described as an 'unclear staffing picture for the summer.'
Health P.E.I. missed the deadline to post vacation schedules by June 1 because of what it described as an 'unclear staffing picture for the summer.'

Health P.E.I. missed the deadline to post vacation schedules by June 1 because of what it described as an 'unclear staffing picture for the summer.' (Wayne Thibodeau/CBC)

The new incentives could see members receiving time-and-a-half or even double-time pay for shifts that are deemed "critical."

Brookins said a lot of nurses are frustrated because they already had summer vacation plans booked, then were denied their leave requests.

"It's a little late to the game," Brookins said in an interview with CBC News.

"We're hopeful that ... if people pick up one or two shifts, it could be the difference of me getting my vacation or not getting my vacation."

Health P.E.I. missed the deadline to post vacation schedules by June 1 because of what it described as an "unclear staffing picture for the summer."

In a statement to CBC News, it said it began working with the unions in March to come up with a plan to "help stabilize care while allowing Health P.E.I. to grant as much vacation as possible, as soon as possible."

Health P.E.I. said it hopes to finalize agreements with other unions soon.

'It had the opposite effect'

Karen Jackson, president of the Union of Public Sector Employees (UPSE), is fearful that the incentives proposed by Health P.E.I. may cause even more problems.

She said Health P.E.I. offered similar incentives last year, and it prompted some people to work less.

Karen Jackson, president of the Union of Public Sector Employees (UPSE), says she’s fearful incentives being proposed by Health P.E.I. may cause even more problems.
Karen Jackson, president of the Union of Public Sector Employees (UPSE), says she’s fearful incentives being proposed by Health P.E.I. may cause even more problems.

Karen Jackson, president of the P.E.I. Union of Public Sector Employees, is fearful that the incentives being proposed by Health P.E.I. may cause even more problems. (Wayne Thibodeau/CBC)

"It incentivised a part-time and casual workforce, many people dropped from full-time in order to be paid the incentive, so it actually had the opposite effect for our members," Jackson said.

"Many of our part-timers and casuals who usually pick up extra shifts didn't need to pick up as many shifts to have the same wage."

UPSE represents about 2,000 health-care workers on the Island, including LPNs, social workers and psychologists.

It's still negotiating with Health P.E.I. to try to reach a deal to pay workers extra over the summer months to help cover more shifts.

'We're a little leery'

Tracy Robertson, president of International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), said Health P.E.I.'s incentives could lead to more workers burning out.

Tracy Robertson, president of IUOE, says she’s fearful Health P.E.I.’s new incentives could also lead to more burnout.
Tracy Robertson, president of IUOE, says she’s fearful Health P.E.I.’s new incentives could also lead to more burnout.

Tracy Robertson, president of IUOE, says Health P.E.I.’s incentives could also lead to more workers burning out over the summer. (Wayne Thibodeau/CBC)

The union represents about 1,300 members across the province, including lab workers, respiratory therapists, pharmacy techs and some administrative staff.

IUOE is still negotiating with Health P.E.I. to reach a deal for additional money over the summer months to help cover their vacation shifts.

"That is one thing that's been offered is to pay people a premium to work extra," Robertson said. "We're a little leery about that because it might encourage people to burn out over the summer because if you're already working full-time, it's maybe not best if you keep picking up shifts."