REGINA: Group homes across the province received much better government funding last year to improve the wages of its employees, but one Regina group home has decided to use the money for other purposes – a move that has prompted the workers at Cheshire Homes to serve strike notice.
The 35 employees of Cheshire Homes, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, will be off the job and on the picket line by noon. They will hold a media scrum on the picket line at 2 p.m. today at 4402 Sherwood Drive.
The workers are incensed by the board’s actions and the government’s inaction.
“It is unbelievable,” says CUPE Local 3207 President Margaret Mukakigeli, who has worked at Cheshire Homes for the last 11 years caring for adults with physical and mental challenges. “After working so long for so little, the province finally came through with additional funds to improve our wages and our board won’t pass those increases on to us.”
CUPE members at Cheshire Homes earn a starting wage of $8.55 an hour. At the top of the pay scale, they make $12.13 an hour.
Mukakigeli says better wages are needed to improve the lives of the workers and the residents. “Everything hinges on the wages. We do not retain workers because of our low wages and we are always dealing with new staff. That’s hard on the residents.”
Since the agency received an additional $97,000 for salaries last year, the workers were expecting a significant increase, but the board only offered 2%, stating it has other plans for the money.
CUPE staff representative Mike Keith says the board’s actions are disgraceful. “They are making reckless decisions with public money and it appears the government has done nothing – absolutely nothing – to intervene. That’s why we have a strike.”
For several years, the provincial auditor has raised concerns about the financial accountability of group homes and other community-based agencies. In its 2006 report, the auditor urged the government “to strengthen its supervision of these agencies.”
Keith says the government must act on that recommendation and it should start by dealing with the situation at Cheshire Homes.
Mike Keith at 536-4856 or 525-5874
Margaret Mukakigeli at 531-6863.