The Saskatchewan 2012 budget, released March 21, provides wage increases of only 1.6 per cent to workers in group homes, vocational training centres, women’s shelters and other community-based organizations (CBO). It’s the third consecutive year the government’s wage mandate for CBO workers is below the cost-of-living. It’s also less than the increases paid to other public sector employees in the province.
“It’s heart-breaking,” says CUPE spokesperson Kristina Atherton, a group home worker in Regina, who works two jobs but always has more bills than money to pay them. “We care for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities, but we continue to be treated like something on the bottom of the finance minister’s shoe.”
She had hoped this year’s provincial budget would not only make life more affordable for group home workers, but a whole lot better for the residents in their care.
“Current government funding for group homes doesn’t allow residents to live meaningful, productive lives,” says Atherton. “Residents are rushed through their daily care routines because we don’t have enough staff to give them more time.”
Henrietta Parenteau, who has worked at a group home in Biggar for more than a dozen years and makes only $15.80 an hour, feels let-down and left-out by the budget. “I had hoped to see extra dollars in the budget so group home workers could finally get extended health benefits. That would have helped many of the older workers in this sector who struggle to stay healthy,” she says.
CUPE Saskatchewan President Tom Graham shares their disappointment. “I really hoped the Saskatchewan government would remember the CBO sector in this year’s budget because these people have worked so hard for so long for so little.”