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Media Release: Provincial Budget Ignores Realities of COVID

Provincial Budget Ignores Realities of COVID

April 8, 2021 (Regina, SK) – Despite what we hear in the media about the provincial government’s spending plan for this fiscal year, it’s all too obvious that the priorities in this budget do not coincide with any of the social programs or ministries hardest hit by COVID-19.

“We have noted that the lowest budgetary increases were to K-12 education, followed by the health sector at 5-6%. On the flip side, there is an over 500% increase to the Ministry of Trade and Export. This is telling when we look at our provincial priorities over the last year,” says Barbara Cape, President of SEIU-West.

“Specifically, this budget provides no comfort to our members who work in Community-Based Organizations (CBO),” adds Cape. “For the last 13 years, our members who work in the CBO sector have campaigned vigorously for multi-year funding. This government has ignored the ongoing hardships that they face due to a lack of stability.”

SEIU-West CBO members provide valuable client-facing front line care and services in group homes, crisis response, addiction recovery facilities and day care centres and regularly face the challenge of provincial funding running out.

“On the failed promise of hiring 300 Continuing Care Assistants (CCAs), a mere 5% increase to the CCA positions in long-term care was insufficient at best; now in this budget reveals they will not keep their commitment – rather we see a ‘down payment’ of only 100, potentially, during this fiscal year,” continues Cape. “This is unconscionable as the need is so very pronounced; a fact made so abundantly clear during our prior year of long-term care tragedies during a global pandemic.

“The additional strain on our health care system due to the onslaught of sickness and death during COVID has not been addressed in this budget. We are not certain how our members in the health sector can place any trust in our government. We question how the $56 million allocated to the Temporary Wage Supplement in 2020-21 was spent as there is no transparency here. We know that it was not offered equitably to all front line essential workers in health care.”

The Saskatchewan Temporary Wage Supplement has not been offered to health care providers who work in hospitals and only included those who work in home care during the second round of payments.

“Finally, our members in education support continue to suffer from the previous funding cuts in this sector; an increase of 2.3% does not even measure inflation. COVID has presented a need for added student supports; this funding demonstrates that our provincial government are unwilling to fund these supports. It’s a reckless dismissal of education quality concerns voiced by students, parents and those who work in the sector and will haunt our province for years to come.”

Service Employees International Union West (SEIU-West) represents over 13,000 people across Saskatchewan. They include people who work in health care, education, municipalities, community-based organizations, retirement homes and other sectors. They are joined by one colour – purple – and one union – SEIU-West. Visit PurpleWorks.ca to find out more about SEIU-West members.

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For more information, contact:

Christine Miller

Communications

306-477-8733

To print a downloadable version of this release, please click here. 

Joint Media Release: CBOs to Sask Party - Is This Year Our Lucky 13?

 

CBOs to Sask Party: Is this year our Lucky 13?

Unions call for multi-year funding for CBOs in provincial budget

 

For Immediate Release

 

March 30, 2021, REGINA – In a letter sent today to Finance Minister Donna Harpauer, CUPE, SEIU-West, and SGEU are asking that next week’s provincial budget include commitments to multi-year funding for community-based organizations.

The letter, titled “CBOs to Sask Party: Is this year our Lucky 13?” points out that thirteen years ago, Harpauer – then the Minister of Social Services – held a consultation with CBOs to identify challenges in the sector and hear ideas on how the government might address them.

At that time, CBOs, unions and workers told the Sask Party that single-year funding was one of their biggest challenges to providing quality services in the community, and proposed a move to a multi-year funding model.

Thirteen years later, CBOs are still waiting for an answer – and in the meantime, workers and the vulnerable people they serve are left struggling needlessly. As the letter notes, “Getting one year of funding at a time makes it impossible to provide stable, reliable services to clients. Organizations never know from one year to the next if they’ll be able to keep their doors open to provide the meaningful services that make our communities stronger.”

With the provincial budget set to be released on April 6th, unions representing CBO workers are asking: will this be the year the Finance Minister steps up and gives CBOs the multi-year funding they deserve?

You can download and print a copy of the letter to Harpauer by clicking here.

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For media inquiries please contact:

Amy Huziak, SGEU
306-530-5683

Tammy Robert, SEIU-West
306-652-1011 x 2225

Nathan Markwart, CUPE Saskatchewan
306-537-9426

 

Media Release: Health Care Workers and COVID Vaccination - What Moe Doesn’t Know

 

Health Care Workers and COVID Vaccination: What Moe Doesn’t Know

March 24, 2021

Saskatoon, Sask – SEIU-West members are shocked and angered by Premier Scott Moe’s misleading claims about the ability and willingness of health care workers (HCWs) to receive a COVID vaccination. 

During a March 23 news conference Moe claimed that 57% of HCWs who were eligible under Phase 1 had taken the vaccine, but that he wished more would do so.

“Let’s set the record straight,” says Barb Cape, President of SEIU-West. “The fact is that only 60% of our 47,000 Saskatchewan health care workers have been offered the vaccine in Phase 1. If all health care providers in all areas of the health care system had been offered a vaccine in Phase 1 there would be higher percentages.”

“There have been repeated requests from SEIU-West and Saskatchewan Health Authority managers to expand the priority list to include screening staff; lab staff; and home care staff. Premier Moe has ignored health care providers in home care and in hospitals since the beginning of this pandemic.”

While vaccines for Long-Term Care staff and residents have been at the forefront, hospital workers who work in patient registration, housekeeping, labs, security, screening, and even people working in vaccine clinics have been left out of the plan.

“We’ve been saying from the beginning of the rollout that all health care providers should be offered the vaccine in Phase 1,” continues Cape. “And this position is supported by the recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).”

SEIU-West members have been engaged in a campaign to gain public support for all health care workers to be included in Phase 1 of the vaccine roll out.

“The fact that people who are interacting with the public in their homes or in health care facilities and providing care to both COVID and non-COVID patients on a regular basis have not been offered the vaccine is abhorrent and ignores guidelines and advice from the experts,” adds Cape. “The clear lack of respect for the health and well-being of front line health care workers is despicable and flies in the face of their ‘essential worker’ status.”

Service Employees International Union West (SEIU-West) represents over 13,000 people across Saskatchewan. They include people who work in health care, education, municipalities, community-based organizations, retirement homes and other sectors. They are united by one colour – purple – and one union – SEIU-West. Visit PurpleWorks.ca to find out more about SEIU-West members.

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For more information, contact:

Christine Miller

Communications

306-477-8733

Click here to download this media release as a PDF.

 

 

Media Release: Relaxed Rules Disrespectful of Health Care Workers

Relaxed Rules Disrespectful of Health Care Providers

March 9, 2021

Saskatoon, Sask – On the heels of Premier Scott Moe’s announcement that public health restrictions will be relaxed, SEIU-West members and leaders are concerned that this decision is premature and guided by politics rather than science or the needs of our health care system.

“It’s too soon to let our guard down like this,” says Barb Cape, President of SEIU-West. “The signs that the second wave is subsiding aren’t strong enough to justify relaxing restrictions. With the rise of the variants and lower testing numbers, we need to keep our public health restrictions in place for just a little longer to see if our efforts are really working.”

Two of Saskatchewan’s key health system leaders, Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab and Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) CEO Scott Livingstone, both expressed concern about the impending risk of a third wave of hospitalizations, especially among younger people and those unvaccinated.

“Ignoring the advice of two of your top advisors doesn’t seem like a sound way to go about protecting the people you were elected to serve,” adds Cape. “There are still a lot of unknowns about the variants and how quickly vaccines will be put into people’s arms.”

Experts agree that caution is key for the next 8 to 12 weeks based on the experience of jurisdictions in Europe noting that there is still potential that another wave would overwhelm our health care system.

“With the recent warmer weather, we’re already seeing a bit of a ‘spring fever’ effect and people are itching to push the envelope. We understand,” continues Cape. “But loosening Saskatchewan restrictions now will encourage folks to take risks… and in a couple of weeks, the heat will be back on again in our ICUs and acute care units. Let’s remember the restrictions in our province remain the most moderate in the country.”

Though Saskatchewan’s rate of COVID hospitalizations has fallen to levels not seen since Christmas, they are still the highest per capita in Canada, and the number of COVID patients in our ICUs remains high.

“Our acute care members have spent a year keeping our health care system running throughout this pandemic,” adds Cape. “And we still have 40% of the health care team who haven’t received their first dose of vaccine. A decision to relax restrictions will lead to a rise in cases and another crisis in our health care system.”

Service Employees International Union West (SEIU-West) represents over 13,000 people across Saskatchewan. They include people who work in health care, education, municipalities, community-based organizations, retirement homes and other sectors. They are joined by one colour – purple – and one union – SEIU-West. Visit PurpleWorks.ca to find out more about SEIU-West members.

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For more information, contact:

Christine Miller

Communications

306-477-8733

Click here for a downloadable PDF of this release.

Media Release: Stronger Together at Elmwood Group Homes

Stronger Together at Elmwood Group Homes

March 2, 2021 For Immediate Release

(Saskatoon, SK)– Members of SEIU-West who work at Elmwood Group Homes in Saskatoon have voted strongly in favour of accepting the tentative agreement reached with the Employer. 

“This group of workers demonstrate strong team building every day.  This, combined with a sense of confidence in their bargaining team, has created a collaborative, respectful bargaining environment where the concerns of both the employer and union are appreciated,” said President of SEIU-West, Barbara Cape. 

“It is reasonable to expect that retention and recruitment challenges need to be addressed for the benefit of the residents.  Our members were pleased to see a willingness on the part of the employer to take such positive steps as retroactive wage increases.  It helps when front line workers feel valued,” adds Cape.

The term of the new collective agreement will be from April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2023, with general wage increases of 1% effective April 1, 2019;  3% effective April 1, 2020 and 1% effective April 1, 2021.  Together with retroactive pay, there are an added number of provisions have been improved upon to manage cost of living issues; for example, there are improvements to both travel allowance and shift differentials.

SEIU-West represents more than 13,000 working people in the province of Saskatchewan. They include members who work in health care, education, municipalities, community-based organizations, retirement homes and other sectors. They are joined by one colour – purple – and one union – SEIU-West. Purple works in our communities! Visit www.PurpleWorks.ca to find out more about the members of SEIU-West.

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For more information, contact:

Tammy Robert Coordinator
Phone: 306-652-1011 ext. 2225

Click here to download a PDF of this release. 

Media Release: Respect Us & Protect Us

Respect Us & Protect Us

February 18, 2021

Saskatoon – SEIU-West leaders are alarmed with the recent public comments made by Health Minister Paul Merriman regarding the provincial vaccine roll out plan for Saskatchewan.

“It appears that our Health Minister is largely unaware of what is going on in the health sector otherwise he would not be inferring that long-term care staff and residents have all been vaccinated. While long term care staff and residents are in Phase 1, these vaccinations are not complete. In some locations, these have not been offered at all,” says Barb Cape, President of SEIU-West.

Mr. Merriman has indicated that the provincial roll-out plan will be done based on age sequencing; this model was chosen because they “looked at other provinces” and it’s “fastest.”

Cape indicates, “It’s ironic that he acknowledges a review of other jurisdictions when other locations are making health care and emergency personnel a priority for the vaccine. Why is it that only in Saskatchewan we select certain health care workers for the vaccine, rather than offering it out to all? Our Health Minister refers to “forward-facing” health care workers as being in Phase 1. It is obvious that he has no idea about the team of health care workers that we have in working in Saskatchewan. They are all ‘forward facing’ in the drive to reduce the infection rates of COVID-19.”

SEIU-West has sent an open letter to the Premier and the Minister of Health setting out clear examples of why all essential and front line workers in the health and community-based sectors need to be offered the vaccine prior to implementing the proposed age sequencing model. No reply has been received to date.

Cape adds, “It’s ironic that the Minister has stated that they have spoken to the different associations about their priorities. He certainly has undertaken no meaningful consultation with us. I don’t believe that the Minister appreciates the level of disrespect felt by our members who are faced with the daily burdens and risks of COVID. They need access to proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and the vaccine. It’s simply unconscionable to refuse our members who work at the Children’s Hospital, for example, access to the vaccine as a priority. We should be planning to reduce the number of outbreaks in our health care facilities by creating a model which complies with the National Advisory Committee on Immunization rather than increasing the risk to our front line heroes. It’s disrespectful and unsafe!”

Service Employees International Union West (SEIU-West) represents over 13,000 people across Saskatchewan. They include people who work in health care, education, municipalities, community-based organizations, retirement homes and other sectors. They are joined by one colour – purple – and one union – SEIU-West. Visit PurpleWorks.ca to find out more about SEIU-West members.

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For more information, contact:

Christine Miller

Communications

306-477-8733

For a downloadable copy of this media release, click here.

Media Release: Hey Moe, Where's Our Dough?

Hey Moe… Where’s Our Dough?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 11, 2021

Saskatoon – SEIU-West members who work in hospitals, community-based organizations, and for employers such as Canadian Blood Services are still being left out of the province’s Temporary Wage Supplement (TWS) program. In many other provinces these crucial workers have received a wage supplement.

“The work that our members do in hospitals, child care, group homes, crisis intervention, and blood collection puts them in close contact with the general public on a daily basis – they can’t do their work from home. These workers are at as much risk as our members who work in Long-Term Care and Home Care setting. All of them should be included in the wage top up,” says Barb Cape, President of SEIU-West.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, SEIU-West members who work as Medical Laboratory Technologists (MLTs), Continuing Care Assistants (CCAs), Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), Environmental Service Workers (ESWs), Patient/Client Intake, Direct Care workers, and Security Officers, to name a few, have been coming into their workplaces every day facing steady interactions with people in the public.

“I’m not sure if the public knows that people who are processing COVID tests aren’t getting the TWS,” continues Cape. “And that the people who clean hospitals are on the first line of defense against the spread of viruses aren’t receiving the top up. These are two of the many classifications in the health care team that are key in fighting this deadly disease.”

The government is not being honest on the reason for not issuing the Temporary Wage Supplement broadly for all front line workers who work in close proximity to people and are exposed to bodily fluids. The Minister of Finance’s office have given different reasons to different members. Ultimately, if this is intended to keep people working, then all front line health care staff, allied health, and community-based workers should be eligible; the Premier and his Minister of Finance shouldn’t be picking winners and losers.

When it was launched, the first phase of the TWS was for people who worked in Long-Term Care homes and completely left out both Hospital and Home Care workers. While phase two of the program now includes home care workers, it still leaves out many vital workers who are in a position of high risk.

“The public should be aware that this government is being selective about whose contribution to our public services are more valuable,” adds Cape. “I do not believe that this government actually understands the impact of this pandemic on front line staff and values saving lives, particularly when the focus is open keeping Saskatchewan open, rather than keeping us safe.”

Service Employees International Union West (SEIU-West) represents over 13,000 people across Saskatchewan. They include people who work in health care, education, municipalities, community-based organizations, retirement homes and other sectors. They are united by one colour – purple – and one union – SEIU-West. Visit PurpleWorks.ca to find out more about SEIU-West members.

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For more information, contact:

Christine Miller

Communications

306-477-8733

Find a downloadable PDF of this release here. 

Media Release: Vaccine Plan Misses the Mark

Vaccination Plan Misses the Mark

February 10, 2021

For Immediate Release

Saskatoon – SEIU-West members are shocked to discover that, once again, the SaskParty government has diminished the value of our front line health care providers as the vaccine roll out plan places them on the back burner in Saskatchewan.

“Our members are facing the daily burdens presented by the ongoing surge of COVID in this province yet so many have been missed in phase 1 of the vaccination plan. It’s obvious, given recent public statements from Premier Scott Moe, that our provincial government has no intention of reducing the risk to these front line health care providers by the introduction and enforcement of more stringent regulations. Now we see they will not be afforded a priority vaccine either. This is a huge mistake,” says Barb Cape, President of SEIU-West.

Cape adds, “Our provincial government needs to understand the devastating effects of COVID on the front line. We should be focusing on what we can control rather than what we cannot if we truly want to manage the spread of COVID-19. Pinning our success solely on fighting this disease with a vaccine is a foolish strategy given that we have no control over access; our question is whether this is simply another way to shirk responsibility when it comes to fighting this pandemic? It is alarming that there is so little respect for the protection of our front line heroes – when they face the brunt of provincial decision-making on a daily basis. Why would we not see them placed in phase 1 of the vaccination plan? These priorities need to be realigned immediately.”

For weeks now, Scott Moe and our SaskParty government have been blaming the Canadian Federal government for the lack of supply of vaccine – the apparent silver bullet in the fight against the COVID-19 Coronavirus.

“This is not a one-solution kind of situation,” continues Cape. “The vaccine is a very important part of the puzzle in this fight but we also need stronger restrictions that are actually enforced.”

The provincial government has been maintaining for weeks that their current public health order and restrictions are sufficient and that tightening them won’t help. Recently Moe has been rallying behind the idea that the vaccine is the only way out of this pandemic.

“The one thing that I think has been keeping people safe during this pandemic is doing what they can to reduce risk,” adds Cape. “Staying physically distant, wearing a mask, washing your hands; those are things people can control. What people don’t have control over and what this government doesn’t have control over is how fast vaccines can be manufactured and delivered so, in the meantime, we must do what we can to lessen the risk and if that requires tighter restrictions, then we need to do that.”

Service Employees International Union West (SEIU-West) represents over 13,000 people across Saskatchewan. They include people who work in health care, education, municipalities, community-based organizations, retirement homes and other sectors. They are united by one colour – purple – and one union – SEIU-West. Visit PurpleWorks.ca to find out more about SEIU-West members.

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For more information, contact:

Christine Miller

Communications

306-477-8733

Click here to download a printable PDF of this media release

Media Release: SEIU-West Calls for a Long-Term Care Overhaul

For Immediate Release - February 2, 2021

Saskatoon – In the wake of the disturbing COVID-19 mortality rates coming out of Extendicare Parkside, SEIU-West is renewing their calls for a full-scale overhaul of the Saskatchewan long-term care system. The SEIU-West campaign to #EndUnderstaffing evolved as a consequence of the last decade with budget-driven resources eroding the quality of care for our seniors.

Media Release: Political Grudge Match Ignores Fairness for Health Care

 

Political Grudge Match Ignores Fairness for Health Care

Saskatoon – This week, Premier Scott Moe confirmed the end of March as the target timeline for the vaccination of all who are living and working in long-term care and personal care homes in Saskatchewan. 

“Our members are asking whether this is a pipe dream,” says Barbara Cape, President of SEIU-West. “It seems this is just another opportunity to criticize the Prime Minister’s office and the federal government for the pace of shipment of vaccines to Saskatchewan. We hope that political games are not being played on the backs of exhausted, broken and traumatized essential workers.”

This sense of skepticism comes as a result of failed leadership on the vaccine roll out plan and COVID-19 related issues since the beginning of the pandemic.

“We have been witness to a number of broken promises from Premier Moe – whether it be an increase in the number of Continuing Care Assistants to the sector or recruitment strategy within provincial lab services,” adds Cape. “Our skepticism has been reinforced when a sizable portion of essential workers continue to be denied access to the federal funds intended to be provided as a wage top-up. Does Scott Moe really believe there are workers in any health care setting who are not essential at this point of the Saskatchewan COVID experience?”

SEIU-West members working for the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) have been raising concerns with the Saskatchewan Temporary Wage Supplement program which was introduced unilaterally by Scott Moe last spring. At that time, it specifically excluded both hospital and home care workers from automatic eligibility. The more recent phase, announced again by Moe late last year, specifically excludes all hospital workers unless they work in an integrated health care facility (eg. a hospital and long-term care home under the same roof) and was only offered for a two month window during a devastating second surge of COVID infections and hospitalizations.   

“We have advised our members that neither SHA nor the Ministry of Health have offered us the opportunity to discuss the program or influence it in a meaningful way,” continues Cape. “We know from the Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives (CCPA) report released on January 26, that the province is sitting on $49.4 million of federal monies that were intended for essential workers.

“On behalf of our membership, I’m asking the public and Scott Moe’s Sask Party government to appreciate the incredible strength of our front line heroes working in health care and community-based sectors. They are working hard to protect our health, safety and lives, yet they feel largely abandoned by our provincial leaders,” states Cape.  

Service Employees International Union West (SEIU-West) represents over 13,000 people across Saskatchewan. They include people who work in health care, education, municipalities, community-based organizations, retirement homes and other sectors. They are united under one colour – purple – and one union – SEIU-West. Visit PurpleWorks.ca to find out more about SEIU-West members.

Download this media release as a PDF.

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For more information contact:

Christine Miller, Communications
Phone: 306-477-8733

Media Release: SEIU-West/SAHO Members' Vote Results

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 18, 2021

SEIU-West/SAHO Members' Vote Results

Saskatoon – Between January 11, 2021 and January 15, 2021, SEIU-West members who work for the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) or an Affiliate voted on the question of whether to accept or reject the tentative agreement (TA) reached between SEIU-West and SAHO in November of 2020.

The tentative agreement has been accepted by a majority of the members who participated in the vote.

“Our members have signaled to us that the TA is acceptable. While we are never certain of how the membership will respond when we hold ratification votes, in this case we have been bargaining with SAHO for almost four years and health care workers have been under tremendous strain,” says Barbara Cape, President of SEIU-West. “Doing a vote of this nature during COVID was certainly a new challenge, however, I am satisfied with our democratic process and we will now begin our work to fulfill the direction provided by our members.”

SEIU-West members working for the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) have been working without a contract since March 31, 2017.

“We have notified our members of the results and subsequently the Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations (SAHO), the Minister of Labour and the SHA and affiliates,” adds Cape. “Now we have to complete the final pieces of the ratification process.

“On behalf of our bargaining committee, I want to thank all of our members for their engagement and activism,” continues Cape. “Before you know it we’ll be back at the table and you can bet we’ll be expecting better from our provincial government.”

Service Employees International Union West (SEIU-West) represents over 13,000 people across Saskatchewan. They include people who work in health care, education, municipalities, community-based organizations, retirement homes and other sectors. They are joined by one colour – purple – and one union – SEIU-West. Visit PurpleWorks.ca to find out more about SEIU-West members.

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For more information contact:

Christine Miller, Communications Coordinator
Phone: 306-477-8733

Click here to download a copy of this news release.

 

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