On June 12, SEIU-West President Barbara Cape, met with other Union Presidents and Hon. Gene Makowsky, Minister of Social Services to further discuss the issues and concerns workers in the Community-Based Organization (CBO) sector face, including multi-year funding.

Barbara was joined by Justine Cherpin, a Direct Support Professional who works in the CBO sector. Here's what Justine had to say about the meeting:

On June 12, I had the pleasure in joining Barb Cape, and other union presidents, Tracey Sauer (SGEU) and Kent Peterson (CUPE) for a follow up meeting with the Hon. Gene Makowsky, the Minister of Social Services. The Ministry of Social Services is the primary funding body for community based organizations across the province. This follow up meeting was months in the making from the CBO lobbying day held in early November 2023. In November a coalition of frontline workers from the CBO sector and from the three unions attended the Legislature and were able to meet with Minister Makowsky, department officials, and NDP opposition members to voice our many issues and concerns surrounding the CBOs from across the province.  

At the June 12 meeting it seemed that everything discussed in November with the Minster was forgotten. He made a disappointing comment in regard to the high turnover at many CBOs, blaming the “hard work” that the sector does but not the low wages or poor working conditions as factors resulting in high turnover. The Minister seems to be completely out of touch with the hardships employees are facing.

He said that the 3% increase in the budget should be seen as a “significant lift”, but that 3% doesn’t trickle down to the frontline workers. It was stressed from the unions that the Ministry should have more say in the direction of the funding each CBO receives. However, he claimed that the Ministry can’t wade into the contracts to direct where the funds go. Frontline workers believe the Ministry of Social Services can and must do better to ensure the funding is being used and accounted for.

Another talking point for the Unions was regarding multi-year funding agreements that would allow CBOs to offer the programs and services that meet the clients' needs for more than one year at a time. More talking points are that many CBO facilities are in disrepair and unsafe and that recruitment and retention are becoming more problematic.

At the November meeting the unions requested that the Minister provide a Ministry Liaison to help facilitate communications and collaboration regarding sector concerns and priorities. At this meeting the minister seemed open to this, but I feel because it took seven months to get this follow up meeting and it will likely take another seven months before the CBOs see any measurable changes from this Ministry.  

Justine Cherpin  
Unit Chair  
Southwest Homes, Swift Current


Read more about the lobby day and other communications that led to this meeting here.

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