The Saskatchewan government has announced a wage top up for some frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, but CUPE Saskatchewan has concerns.
“Why does it take a pandemic and $53 million dollars from the federal government for the provincial government to acknowledge the true value of the critical services that long-term care, childcare, group home, and shelter workers provide to the most vulnerable in our society?” said Judy Henley, President of CUPE Saskatchewan. “These workers are grossly underpaid for the critical work they perform day in and day out.”
CUPE and other labour unions have been fighting for decades for improved, multi-year funding to improve wages and benefits for workers in group homes, childcare, women’s shelters, and other community-based organizations. These agencies provide care to the intellectually disabled, children, women fleeing domestic violence, and other vulnerable Saskatchewan residents.
“We need permanent, multi-year wage increases for these workers, not temporary adjustments,” added Henley. “Most of our members have recently gone two or more years with frozen wages. Even for those that receive this top-up, 16 weeks of these additional earnings will not even come close to making up for wages frozen for years.”
The government subsidy, which is mostly funded by the federal government, will provide $400 a month for three months, retroactive to March 15. Only workers in the following facilities are eligible:
Senior-care facilities, including private care homes and home care;
Licensed childcare facilities;
Group homes run by community-based organizations; and
Emergency shelters and transitional shelters.
CUPE is also calling for additional funding to support front-line staff that are not covered by the current announcement.
“In addition, we are calling for additional funding to boost wages and increase staffing levels in health care to address crushing workloads, as well as recruitment and retention issues.”, said Henley. “Workers in every sector of public services need to be treated equally and acknowledged.”
CUPE is also working to ensure all workers have access to proper personal protective equipment.
“A temporary top-up should in no way let the province off the hook for ensuring the health and safety of all workers,” declared Henley.