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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.

 

Media Advisory: SEIU-West/SAHO Members Vote Results

For Immediate Release, January 15, 2021

Saskatoon – Today SEIU-West members will complete their vote on the proposed Tentative Agreement (TA) reached with the Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations (SAHO) in late November 2020 and will share the results on Monday January 18.

Media Release: Health Care Unions Wary of Government eHealth Priorities

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 14, 2021

Health Care Unions Wary of Government eHealth Priorities

Regina & Saskatoon – The unions representing information technologists within the Saskatchewan Health Authority are concerned about the recent investigation report released by the Saskatchewan Information & Privacy Commissioner, and the ongoing plan for the SHA to transfer all Information Technology assets (except for digital health)  including employees to eHealth.

“To date there have been far too many unanswered questions; now we have discovered through Mr. Kruzeniski’s report that the board and leadership of eHealth is in disarray.  We know that this is not the first time that the eHealth Board has been removed by the Sask Party government.  A similar removal occurred in 2018.  Top leadership of the organization also has been changed by the Ministry of Health.  For the protection of our members and for the security of private health information for all in Saskatchewan, we believe that the pattern of chaos needs to be curbed and an identifiable period of stability established prior to any contemplation of the need for the move of valuable IT services out of the control of our provincial health authority.  Trust badly needs to be restored.” says Barbara Cape, President of SEIU-West.

SEIU-West and CUPE 5430 leaders are not confident that the IT systems, supports and communication needs of the SHA can be met by eHealth. Nor do the union leaders believe that continuing to push this agenda of the Health Authority shedding responsibility will improve controls and monitorship of IT network access or increase testing of disaster recovery plans. The recent investigation and recommendations made reinforce ongoing concerns of SHA employees who are slated to transfer to eHealth.

At present, both the SHA and the Ministry of Health retain custody and responsibility for their IT services with an explicit duty to protect that information. Mr. Kruzeniski’s report confirms this continuing obligation. The unions believe that this oversight duty should prevail as a best practice.

Sandra Seitz, President of CUPE 5430, states, “Now, more than ever before, it is time to pause and fully contemplate the big picture. When the Privacy Commissioner expresses a lack of accountability and transparency on the part of all parties in reporting and managing this privacy breach and ransomware attack, it is so obvious that the decision to transfer all assets to eHealth needs to be reconsidered following the independent governance, management and program review of eHealth directed to be completed by the Minister of Health.”

IT employees of SHA and their union representatives have been engaged in endless restructuring talks since 2018. 

Seitz adds, “Now is an opportune time to look at the real problems that exist - instead of stubbornly insisting upon jamming all assets into one organization that has not demonstrated responsible cyber security processes and policies, effective monitoring and controls, economies of scale or adequate incident response. We also recognize that government investment in IT systems infrastructure has been lacking for many years – cobbling together multiple aging IT systems is a recipe for these kinds of disasters.”

Cape agrees and states, “Despite dire warnings, privacy breaches and the recent ransomware attacks our government does not rate the security of personal and private health information as a priority. At the same time, we must extend our appreciation for those employees within eHealth and SHA who are doing their best to keep our IT systems together in the midst of an environment of dated systems and a lack of oversight.”

SEIU-West and CUPE represent health care providers including those who are employed in IT services who work in nine of the former health authorities.

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For more information, contact:

Christine Miller, SEIU-West Communications: 306-477-8733

Tria Donaldson, CUPE Communications: 306-531-6247

Click here to download the PDF of this media release: Health Care Unions Wary of Government eHealth Priorities

Media Release: Looking for Strong Leadership & a Real Plan for Vaccinations

For Immediate Release, January 12, 2021

Saskatoon – SEIU-West calls for the Saskatchewan government, Ministry of Health and Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) to stop the blame game and begin to communicate with health providers on the best strategy for a real plan for access to vaccinations.

Media Release: A Need for Sustainable Solutions in Long-Term Care

For Immediate Release - December 10, 2020

Regina – While details continue to emerge, SEIU-West leaders and members have been both shocked and saddened as the daily heart-breaking reports are revealed about the extent of the outbreak at Extendicare Parkside, a long term care facility in Regina.

Media Release: Tentative Agreement Reached - SEIU-West Members to Vote

For Immediate Release - November 20, 2020

Tentative Agreement Reached – SEIU-West Members to Vote

Saskatoon – After over 1300 days without a new collective agreement, SEIU-West members achieved a tentative agreement (TA) with SAHO and the Employers late on Thursday November 19th.

“Our members have been engaged and vocal and active in sending letters to decision makers and local papers; signing and submitting petitions to the government; holding physically distanced public #DoneWaiting demonstrations; and meeting with their MLAs (prior to the pandemic). All of these actions have made a difference in getting us to this point,” says Barbara Cape, President of SEIU-West. “Bargaining in the midst of a worldwide pandemic has been challenging. For the SEIU-West bargaining committee, ensuring the work our members do on the front line of this pandemic is recognized has been our priority."

MEDIA RELEASE: Stronger COVID Guidelines Welcome

For Immediate Release - November 18, 2020

Stronger COVID Guidelines Welcome

Regina – Yesterday the Government of Saskatchewan announced new public health measures to combat rapidly-rising COVID numbers. Most notably, masks must now be worn in all communities, private gatherings are now limited to 5 people instead of 10, and visits to care home residents will be allowed only for compassionate reasons. Restaurants, bars, gyms, and places of worship will remain open, but these groups will be consulted to develop safer practices. Premier Scott Moe described these measures as “not a lockdown” but rather a “one-month slowdown” in hopes of flattening the COVID curve enough to permit Christmas gatherings.

SEIU-West welcomes these measures, but is concerned they don’t do enough to acknowledge and relieve the additional burdens health sector workers have faced, and will increasingly face during this second wave of the pandemic.

“We welcome the province-wide mask order,” says Barb Cape, President of SEIU-West. “We hope this is a signal that the Government is listening to the voices of health care providers. The virus doesn’t check what a town’s population is before dropping by. Restrictions on family gatherings are important, but not having similar restrictions on restaurants, bars, athletic/recreation activities, and church services allows for another vector for infection and spread of this dangerous virus.”

It’s incredibly unfortunate that we’ve had to move to restricting visitors to long-term care and personal care homes,” Cape continues. “If anyone understands the impact this has on residents and their families, it is health care staff. The challenge now is for health care staff to keep residents active, engaged and happy.  Given the chronic understaffing that prevails in long term care, this becomes a challenge exclusively for health care staff.”

Cape calls for the Saskatchewan government to offer a temporary wage subsidy to all health care workers. “Premier Moe confirmed in the media conference yesterday that our government is sitting on tens of millions in unused federal COVID funding. Now is the right time to draw on that for the benefit of those who are on the front line fighting COVID in the hospitals, LTC/personal care homes, home care, and community based organizations. Our members are exhausted - workloads have ballooned, emotional and physical burdens have taken a toll, and the stress caused by this pandemic continues to be overwhelming.  It is time for a show of real appreciation for the front line faced with COVID and its impact on the health care system.  At the same time, relief is necessary - we would encourage a slowdown in SHA services in order to provide a moment for the health care system to regain a sense of equilibrium in labs, hospital services, ICU’s/COVID units, and in long term care.”

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:

Shawna Colpitts

Director, Political Action & Education, SEIU-West

Phone: 306 652-1011 ext 2224

Click here to download a PDF of the latest SEIU-West media release - Stronger COVID Guidelines Welcome

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