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CUPE and two other unions representing workers in community-based organizations are disappointed the government has no plan to address wage inequality in this sector.

At a news conference this morning Social Services Minister Harry Van Mulligen announced community-based agencies will receive just over $6 million more in this years budget, which will be unveiled in the legislature tomorrow.

Gail Tiefenbach, a SGEU member and group home worker, said the increase just isnt good enough. The unions had been seeking a $40 million increase over four years.

We dont expect to close the wage gap in one year. We do, however, expect to see a multi-year financial plan that will result in fair wages for community-based workers, Tiefenbach said.

We want a plan to seriously address the problem of poverty-level wages in our sector. Were going to keep up the pressure. We are determined to see a multi-year strategy unveiled before the end of this legislative session. We are not prepared to wait yet another year, she said.

Community-based workers have identified the need for a longer term strategy to bring wages in line with employees doing comparable work in the public service, according to Aina Kagis, a CUPE staff rep based in Regina.

A job evaluation study has shown that community-based workers earn, on average, about $8 an hour less than employees doing work of equal value in the provincial government.

A one-time increase of $6 million is not moving us significantly closer to our goal of wage equity, she added.

The new funding translates into an average six per cent increase which will still leave our poorly paid employees at near poverty-level wages, said Kagis.

In last years budget, the government committed to a four- year plan for reducing personal income taxes. Community-based workers deserve a similar long-term commitment. We need to know that the wage gap will be addressed in the foreseeable future.

Social Services Minister Harry Van Mulligens promise to work together to achieve a long-term solution is too vague, said Kagis. Were tired of promises. We dont need more discussion. The consultations, the research and the studies have been done. We need more money and we need a commitment to close the wage gap.

Community-based workers need substantial increases to address the many funding shortfalls we face, said Kagis. In addition, many community-based workers do not have access to even the most basic benefits, such as sick leave.

Were worth more. A lot more. And were going to keep on fighting for the wages and benefits that we deserve, said Tiefenbach.

About 10,000 community-based workers are employed in group homes, womens shelters, crisis intervention centres, child cares and other human service agencies across the province.

The unions that represent workers in this sector the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees Union (SGEU) have been working together to increase wages and benefits for community-based workers.

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