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Yukon hospital workers return strike mandate as mediation talks begin

Workers at Yukon's three hospitals have a returned a 'very strong' strike mandate to their union after a vote last week, according to a release issued Wednesday evening.

Union, Yukon Hospital Corporation expected to begin 2 days of talks Thursday with help of federal mediator

Yukon Employees' Union president Steve Geick says hospital workers are burning out, trying to cope with an increasing workload. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Workers at Yukon's three hospitals have returned a "very strong" strike mandate to their union after a vote last week, according to a release issued Wednesday evening.

Roughly 250 employees at hospitals in Watson Lake, Dawson City and Whitehorse are represented by the Yukon Employees' Union and the Public Service Alliance of Canada. The workers have been without a contract since August 2017.

The vote showed that "an overwhelming majority of voters are prepared to strike if necessary," according to the release. It said the direction of the vote will guide the union's negotiating team in contract talks scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

The upcoming talks are part of a fifth round of bargaining with the Yukon Hospital Corporation, this time with the help of a federal mediator.

The union has maintained that its main issue in collective bargaining is workload. One week ago, Yukon Employees' Union president Steve Geick said members are getting "burnt out" while the hospital corporation looks to offer more services without expanding staff.

"Chronic understaffing has been worsened by expanded hospital services, and employee burn-out is endemic across hospital departments," the release reads, adding that the contracting-out of hospital services is also a key issue.

The release states that following the vote, both the union and hospital corporation are in a legal strike position, and a strike or lockout could come from either side with 72 hours' notice.

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