Irony. The dictionary defines it as a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.

It’s no laughing matter, however, when it comes to perhaps the greatest example of irony Meadow Lake has witnessed in some time – the fact more than 20 workers at the Meadow Lake Primary Health Centre continue to work without a collective agreement. This means they do not have the luxury of health benefits. Think about that for a moment – individuals who work in the health care field don’t have access to the one workplace perk necessary to ensure their own health and well-being.

According to officials with SEIU-West, the union that represents the clinic employees, negotiations between its members and the Prairie North Regional Health Authority continue. And, while the latest offer put forth recently by management did include benefits, these came with a price employees were unwilling to pay. Apparently, in order to gain benefits, the workers would be required to sacrifice any potential pay raise for the next three years. That hardly seems fair, especially for those who’ve worked hard at their jobs and who deserve to be compensated accordingly.

Prairie North, meanwhile, has remained somewhat tight-lipped when it comes to efforts to reach a new agreement with its employees. This makes it difficult to gain a balanced outlook on the situation, but that’s probably by design. After all, such negotiations are often restricted to the bargaining table until a compromise is reached and both sides are prepared to move forward.

What makes this particular situation of special note, however, is the impact prolonging it further could have on the general public. SEIU-West vice-president Neil Colmin went on record last week to say, because of the latest failure to come to an agreement, the situation could soon reach an impasse and, if employees choose to do so, it would not be unheard of for them to walk off the job.

If this happens, where does it leave the patients who fill the clinic’s waiting room each and every day? When a similar story broke about possible strike action earlier this year, PNRHA officials said a contingency plan is in place if indeed a strike does occur. It may be only a matter of time before this plan is put into action.

However, in this day and age there’s no reason why an organization that employs what’s been reported as more than 3,000 people overall, shouldn’t automatically provide benefits, especially to its workers who are on the front line so to speak, the people whose day-to-day responsibilities bring them in direct contact with any and all illnesses and afflictions under the sun. It’s time to put this issue to rest. Negotiations have gone on long enough.