Documents compiled by CUPE show that the provincial government is contracting out work to private “staffing solution” companies in health care – including more than $730,000 for Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) in just one region of the province.

“This is the completely wrong approach to dealing with the staffing crisis in healthcare,” said Bashir Jalloh, president of CUPE 5430. “This issue is a mess of the government’s own making, and it’s only one example of the contracting out of healthcare workers that is becoming more widespread across the province. The hiring of private contractors is not only costly, but it’s also a temporary band-aid solution that will do nothing to solve the issues that are causing a shortage of healthcare workers in Saskatchewan.”

Jalloh said that the hiring of out-of-province, private staff is worsening morale among workers, who are being paid less than private contract workers doing the same job. For example, the top of the Continuing Care Assistant (CCA) wage scale is $24.84 an hour in Saskatchewan. Meanwhile, a job posting for a travel CCA posted by Gratitude Canada, a company providing so-called “staffing solutions” for Saskatchewan-based workers, offers a wage scale of $28-$32 per hour, plus travel, accommodations, and a meal allowance. In addition to CCAs and LPNs, private contractors have also been hired for Medical Technologist and Technician and Health Information Practitioner positions across the province.

“Imagine you are a CCA who has been working for the Saskatchewan Health Authority for the last five years,” added Jalloh. “Suddenly you are working side by side with someone from a private company who is doing the same job as you, but getting paid more per hour, and with free accommodations, meals, and expenses covered. “It’s completely unfair that the government has the money to cover higher wages for private contract workers, but not permanent staff.”

Jalloh called on the government to come up with real solutions to attract permanent, long-term staff by making health care education more accessible in rural areas, providing market supplements for hard-to-recruit areas, and moving allowances for current SHA staff willing to relocate.

“We need to attract people who want to put roots down in Saskatchewan and build a life here, but instead of working on permanent solutions, the government is squandering money and resources by contracting out private companies,” said Jalloh. “If the government can afford to pay private contractors, they can afford to invest in Saskatchewan workers.”

Jalloh also called on the government to provide more information about what positions are being contracted out, and the full costs of the contracting out of staffing in the province.

“We simply don’t know the full extent of what jobs are being contracted out and how much it is costing,” said Jalloh. “The government needs to be more transparent and provide a complete account of the use of private contractors, as well as a plan to stop relying on their use. The Federal government has already clawed back healthcare funding from the province due to their healthcare privatization schemes, and if the use of private contractors continues, it could happen again. We can’t afford to have more money taken out of a system in crisis.”