The Sask. Party approach to the COVID-19 pandemic is leaving front-line workers behind.

CUPE Saskatchewan is concerned the latest hastily announced changes to The Saskatchewan Employment Act’s regulations will only hurt workers during this state of emergency and add to the ongoing financial difficulties facing workers.

“The decision to remove the two-week layoff notice will create more stress and uncertainty for families, during what is already a difficult time,” said Judy Henley, President of CUPE SK.  “Thousands of workers have already been laid off, and this government wants to make it easier for companies to issue more layoff notices.  It is absolutely unacceptable.”

The federal government has already received 500,000 Employment Insurance applications so far this week, and acknowledged that there will be a considerable backlog to access financial support.

While the Sask. Party has set up a Self-Isolation Support Program of $450/week for a maximum of two weeks, CUPE Saskatchewan does not think this support goes far enough to help.

“The Self-Isolation Support Program seems like a good idea, but the eligibility is overly restrictive, and it does not take into account people with chronic health issues, or people who may need to isolate for longer than two weeks,” said Henley.

CUPE is also concerned about the lack of adequate personal protective equipment for all front-line workers. “We are very concerned that our members on the front lines of this pandemic are being put into harms way without the proper personal protective equipment.  At minimum, there should be gowns, gloves, masks and face shields provided when there is potential exposure,” added Henley.

CUPE Saskatchewan is calling for the Government of Saskatchewan to address the following issues urgently to provide the help that is needed for workers:

  • Remove the restrictive eligibility requirements on the newly-announced provincial Self-Isolation Support Program, and increase the benefit period.Workers should not have to use their vacation leave or wait to see if their private insurance covers them during this emergency – it only adds red tape at a time when workers need real help from their provincial government.

  • During a public emergency, the provincial government should foot the bill for the full exemption of the pay-in-lieu of notice period of 12 weeks or less in a 16-week period, to ensure workers are not hurt by the back-door amendments of the regulations of The Saskatchewan Employment Act when relieving business of their otherwise legal obligations to their workers.

  • Incomes should be maintained for public sector workers affected by temporary closures of schools, universities, libraries, child care centres, recreational facilities and all other government funded services.

  • All front-line workers need access to appropriate personal protective equipment, including N95 respirators.

  • Workers who have to self-isolate due to illness, travel or compromised immunity should be able to access paid leave without depleting sick leave banks or vacation entitlements.

  • With schools closing, the government needs to provide substantial financial assistance for parents who cannot afford alternative care or who need to miss work to care for a child.

  • Work with all levels of government to ensure that all crown and municipal utilities, banks, credit unions, landlords, credit card companies and financial institutions extend and relax mortgage, rent and bill payment requirements, loan servicing obligations, and other responsibilities facing consumers and households.

  • Place a moratorium on residential evictions during the state of emergency.

    “The COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting just how out-of-touch this government is with workers,” said Henley.  “It is imperative that we do everything we can do to limit the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, which means keeping money in the pocket of workers.”