Recently, SEIU-West launched a campaign to raise the issue of understaffing in health care. We want to ensure that our patients, clients and residents have the necessary staff in all aspects of our system in order to live up to a promise of safe, professional world class health care that puts the patients first. But without the necessary staff in place, that promise can’t be kept. 

We are reaching out to the staff in health care and people who access to our health care system, in order to build a demand for investment in front line health care providers.  We are also reaching out to the general public in order to educate and motivate them to join us in this campaign. 

Recently, the Minister of Finance, Donna Harpauer began responding with quite possibly the most glaring example of missing the point! In her template replies, she attempts to justify the wages paid to elected MLA’s ($98,000+) as a base salary in comparison to wages paid to front line health care staff. So let’s take a look:

  • The MLA base wage is $98,395.00/year. They received a 3.5% cost of living increase last year, and a 2.3% cost of living adjustment again on April 1 of 2019. Minister of Finance missed the point because health care workers don’t have that as a base salary and don’t get automatic wage increases based on cost of living increases!
  • The Board of Internal Economy sets the increases. The Minister of Finance missed the point because this is essentially the MLA’s (and Speaker) establishing their own wage increases!
  • This amount doesn’t address the additional allowances received for everything from Legislative Secretary to committee Chair/co-chair to Speaker to Premier to…well, you get the idea! Health care workers don’t get those kinds of allowances for additional duties – extra duties just get rolled into our everyday work! The Minister of Finance missed the point that we are required to do more, with less…less wages, less staff, and less support!
  • This campaign is about ending understaffing and investing in front line health care staff. The Minister of Finance missed the point when she failed to address this as the core issue in the campaign and instead justified MLA salaries!

I get it, Minister Harpauer seems to believe that there is a false equivalency between comparing the critical work of front line health care workers with elected politicians. But the irony isn’t lost on any of us that there isn’t a shortage of people running for elected office while there is a clear shortage of staff in front line health care.

If you have received this reply from our Minister of Finance, we urge you to join the many others who have sent her a second message indicating that she missed the point: we need real answers, and real action.

We want to get down to the work of providing safe, professional health care services, so let’s focus on the issue of staffing, instead of justifying politician wages.  We’ve called for a roundtable to talk about staffing levels with government, the Saskatchewan Health Authority and the unions representing people. And we encourage you to share the safe staffing campaign with your neighbours, friends, family and colleagues…our system depends on it! Together, our province can make sure patients, residents, clients, and health care providers have access to a safe and quality health care system – together, we can put care first.

In solidarity,

Barbara Cape

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