1999 SUN Strike

On the morning of April 7, 1999, 8,400 registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses, members of the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses walked off the job. They were legislated back to work six hours later by the Romanow government. SUN members from across the province immediately gathered at a huge rally at Regina’s Centre of the Arts in response to the news that they were being legislated back to work.

When SUN’s leadership sought direction from the membership, nurses expressed their frustration and anger with the government’s decision to legislate rather than negotiate. “Hell no, we won’t go”, became the nurses’ rallying cry. The illegal strike affected most health care facilities in the province, including hospitals, home care, public health, mental health care, and long-term care facilities. The strike lasted 10 days before a signed memorandum of agreement ended the strike.

By 1999, Saskatchewan’s nursing shortage had deepened. Nurses in the province were migrating to Alberta, B.C. and the United States, attracted by higher wages, better staffing, and generous recruitment benefits. Nurses remaining in Saskatchewan were facing excessive overtime, cancelled vacations, double shifts, and the frustration of attempting to provide safe patient care on understaffed units. Prior to the strike, SUN held a “shoe-in” , covering the steps of the legislature with hundreds of discarded nursing shoes to symbolize the deepening nursing shortage.

SUN’s proposals targeted the nursing shortage, and included requiring health employers to adhere to professional standards for the nursing profession, and improving wages and benefits to stem the out-migration. Nurses wanted Independent Assessment Committee (achieved in the 1988 strike) decisions regarding workload and other professional standards to be binding on employers. They also wanted a major increase in salaries, to match a pay equity increase granted to SUN members previously employed by the federal government.

The settlement produced a 13.7 percent raise in pay and benefits over three years. Arbitration produced a revised Independent Assessment Committee that met SUN’s demand that IAC staffing decisions would be binding.

For more detailed information regarding the 1999 strike, go to the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses website history section at http://www.sun-nurses.sk.ca/about_history/1999_strike.html


Video Clip
Shoes on the steps, Saskatchewan nurses strike in 1999 Video Clip
Nurses Dramatize crisis with "shoe-in"