Tripartite Q&A

Questions and Answers

1. What is the Tripartite Partnership Agreement?

The Tripartite Partnership Agreement symbolizes a joint commitment to work collaboratively on improving the health care system for patients, their families, and the nurses who care for them. The new Tripartite Agreement was signed by Health Minister Dustin Duncan, SUN and representatives from Regional Health Authorities in Regina on June 13, 2012.It follows the successful completion of the 2008 SUN/Government Partnership Agreement, which succeeded in adding more than 900 RNs to Saskatchewan’s nursing workforce.

2. What is the goal of the Tripartite Agreement?

The Agreement will help ensure high quality, safe patient care by supporting an appropriate, experienced, educated and engaged registered nurse workforce. The Agreement is of great significance to registered nurses, the patients and families they serve, and health regions. The partners recognize that there is much work to be done to improve their working relationships and improve patient care. Collaboration such as this is essential to the retention and recruitment of a skilled registered nurse workforce in Saskatchewan.

3. How does it work, and why is it needed?

Partners in the agreement now have a mechanism that supports collaboration on addressing in a creative manner. It represents a model for a new cooperative approach to labour relations and ultimately collective bargaining. The agreed-upon guiding principles of the Tripartite will influence how we work together.

This Agreement represents a new and collaborative approach to labour relations. It will create an environment where registered nurses are empowered to participate in health system transformation by engaging in decision making and identifying potential improvements.

4. What are the goals of the Tripartite Partnership Agreement?

The Tripartite Steering Committee has set the following strategic objectives:

  • Maximize registered nursing employment opportunities.
  • Identify initiatives that support innovation, positive system transformation, positive patient outcomes and employee engagement.
  • Work collaboratively to establish a culture of safety and wellness in the workplace with a focus on patient and staff safety.
  • Establish a registered nursing workforce plan to be used to determine the number and distribution of registered nurses within the province.
  • Communicate/transfer knowledge.

5. What work has been done so far through the Tripartite Partnership Agreement?

Governance and process documents have been developed and posted.

Three priorities have been identified:

  1. Regularization
  2. Improved safety for nurses
  3. Rural/remote recruitment and retention

6. Why were those three priorities selected?


The process of Regularization is intended to create a predictable workload, increase job satisfaction, reduce unplanned scheduling changes, address patient and staff safety by reducing overtime hours, increase the continuity of care for patients and seeking to reduce unbudgeted costs due to wage driven premiums.

The Regularization process analyzes staffing trends at the unit level in the attempt to create regular full time positions or part time positions from all hours typically worked outside the staffing schedule.

Regularization work will complement Lean initiatives already underway.

Improved safety for nurses

This priority reflects the need to examine potential Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) project opportunities, as well as improved OH&S training and education for charge nurses.

Rural/remote recruitment and retention

The parties recognize the need for retention and recruitment in our rural and remote areas. An evaluation is in progress to determine next steps.

7.  Ideally, what will the Tripartite accomplish?

This ground-breaking Agreement will help:

  • build relationships among key stakeholders to address shared health care concerns;
  • engage the partners in collaborative discussion – speaking the same language with the same goals;
  • develop research and evidence in support of shared health care transformation goals;
  • create opportunities for joint problem-solving to improve workplaces; and
  • engage registered nurses (RNs/RPNs/RN(NP)s) in determining how their knowledge and expertise can be maximized to improve health care.

8. How can nurses get involved in the work of the Tripartite?

As shared stakeholders in our province’s health care system, we are all ambassadors for positive improvements, patient and nurse safety, and improved patient- and family-centred care.  Nurses can find out what’s happening on the Tripartite Agreement in the following ways:

  • Contact a Steering Committee member. We want to know what’s happening in your community, facility or agency, particularly if you have a concern that you think may be addressed by the Agreement.
  • Go online for information about progress being made through the Agreement; e-mail communiqués are also issued periodically.
  • Every health region will designate tripartite “champions” to act as regional contacts.

9. When will the Tripartite be implemented in our health region?

The Tripartite will not be rolled out across the province all at once.  It is not an initiative or a program, but a mechanism to address labour relations or other workplace issues in a new, collaborative way.

There is no standard approach, as each situation is different. The Tripartite provides us with the guidelines and principles - the framework - to start thinking differently. Each situation, facility or agency and community will have different needs – the Tripartite recognizes this and has taken on a flexible approach to labour relations.

As opportunities arise, pilot projects will be established. The pilot projects are not intended to cause additional work, but rather to complement quality improvement work currently under way within the health regions. The projects will assist in developing the evidence-based research required to implement broader initiatives that will result in positive changes and improved patient and family-centered care.  

10. A number of new initiatives and changes are happening in our region – how can the Tripartite help?


The Tripartite is not intended to create more work; it will compliment Lean (quality improvement) work already underway across Saskatchewan’s health system.

Saskatchewan has embarked upon a health care transformation journey to improve patient-and family-centred care and health services across the system. Through this transformation, facilities/agencies will see changes of varying degrees at different times. The Tripartite Agreement provides SUN members and health regions with more opportunities to be involved in the changes and potential outcomes. This is a mechanism to further engage frontline registered nurses and tap into their invaluable knowledge and perspective.

11. Why have the R&R Committees been discontinued? What will take their place?

The Joint SUN/RHA Retention and Recruitment (R&R) Committees have been pivotal in retaining and recruiting registered nurses in our province through professional development, mentorship and bursary programs. Their work came to an end when the previous Collective Agreement and Partnership expired.

Following an analysis of the R&R Committees’ final reports, bursary programs within seven RHAs were extended to December 31, 2012, to allow for further evaluation.  An external evaluator was engaged to evaluate both the committee level outcomes (relationship-building, trust, problem-solving, knowledge transfer, etc.) and participant level outcomes (increased nurse and patient indicators, nurse satisfaction, job turnover, access to professional development, patient experience, etc.).

An interim report was delivered to the Tripartite Steering Committee on January 30, 2013.  Based on in-depth one-on-one R&R Committee member interviews, a number of emerging themes were identified.  Overall, respondents indicated that there was immense value in the positive relationships that were built through this new approach to joint problem-solving.  The next steps in the evaluation process are to examine key success factors, actual FTE numbers for positions filled, the impacts of shared decision-making on addressing R&R issues, and lessons that could be applied to future projects.

12. Does the Tripartite replace the SUN CBA?

No.  The Tripartite is a framework to begin discussions in a different forum. The Collective Agreement still has great value and strength in setting the “rules” for protecting registered nurses, employers and patients. The Tripartite provides SUN and RHAs with an additional collaborative mechanism to address labour relations issues.

13. How long is the Tripartite Agreement in effect?

The Agreement will expire in the spring of 2014. However, we see this work continuing in the long term, as Saskatchewan takes a more collaborative approach to expanding and supporting its nursing workforce.  We expect to continue to build upon the successes of this agreement and the original 2008 SUN/Government Partnership Agreement.




Sun Country Health Region Prairie North Health Region Sunrise Health Region Prince Albert Parkland Health Region Kelsey Trail Health Region
Keewatin Yatthe Health Region Heartland Health Region Saskatchewan Union of Nurses Saskatchewan Ministry of Health Saskatoon Health Region Mamawetan Churchill River Health Region
Five Hills Health Region Cypress Health Region Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region