Collective bargaining talks between Saskatchewan's registered nurses and management have stalled.
On Thursday, the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) said that after seven months of bargaining with the Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations (SAHO), they are at an impasse.
Details of what's being offered have been under a media blackout over that time.
According to SUN, one sticking point concerns the ability of nurses to call in extra staff in cases where patient safety is at stake. The union is accusing SAHO, the agency that represents health districts at the bargaining table, of trying to restrict this approach.
"We are incredibly disappointed and believe this to be a missed opportunity for SAHO to collaborate with the province's almost 10,000 registered nurses on finding solutions to improving both patient care and workplaces," SUN president Tracy Zambory said in a news release.
The last contract expired on March 31, 2014.
SUN is one of the province's largest unions and any labour disruption would have major implications for health care throughout the province.
The breakdown comes as Saskatchewan politicians are gearing up for an election on April 4.
It's still early in the process, but if there's a strike, it could be the first test of the province's recently amended essential services law.
That law allows the government to order public sector workers deemed essential back on the job.
Didn't see it coming, SAHO says
CEO Doug Forseth said SAHO was disappointed that the talks broke off.
"We had very constructive discussions with SUN throughout the course of negotiations in this round, and they made choices today, that we frankly didn't see coming," Forseth said.
Forseth said the last discussion SAHO had with SUN was to discuss dates to reconvene. He said the process had been collaborative until wages were put on the table.
"From our perspective, wages were a very key issue," he said.
When it comes to concerns around the ability to call in extra staff, Forseth said SAHO was looking to clarify the criteria used when additional staff are called in by managers. He said it would not stop nurses from calling in extra staff.