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CUPE health care workers in Saskatchewan set up picket lines at midnight January 7th for a one-day strike after last minute conciliation efforts failed. Braving plunging temperatures, the workers walked out - initially for 24 hours - to support their contract demands.

In my 20 years in health care, I’ve never experienced the kind of solidarity among CUPE health care workers than we’re seeing in this dispute,” said Stephen Foley, president of the CUPE Health Care Council in Saskatchewan.

The 12,000 CUPE members, working in hospitals, nursing homes clinics and other health care facilities have taken strike action to support their demands for job security, seniority, parity in hours and wages and a wage increase.

After months of negotiations with the Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations (SAHO), workers are demanding the province intervene to provide the necessary funding to allow a fair settlement.

The government created wide disparities in wages, jobs and hours of work with they instituted health care reform,” said Foley. “We think it’s up to them to put more funds into the system to deal with these disparities and inequities. So far, the amounts they’ve proposed are totally inadequate.”

As a result of a massive restructuring of Saskatchewan’s health system, workers from 538 different bargaining units have been amalgamated into 45 without standardizing hours or wages. As a result, working hours range from 1872 to 2080 per year and wage disparities of as much as $4 an hour can be found among workers in the same institution.

To step up pressure on the government and demonstrate support for the strike, health care workers rallied in front of the legislature in Regina. National President Judy Darcy addressed the crowd pledging the support and solidarity of CUPE members from across the country.