After weeks of pressure from CUPE and other health care unions, the Government of Saskatchewan has finally announced a continuous masking policy for health care providers, and a transition to single site employment for workers in acute and long-term care. This move puts in place protections for the at most risk demographic: long-term care residents.

“Long-term care homes have been at the centre of major COVID-19 outbreaks in other provinces and account for the majority of deaths attributed to the virus,” said Sandra Seitz, president of CUPE Local 5430.  “Halting multi-site work will help stop the spread of COVID-19 by limiting movement between seniors’ care facilities.”

COVID-19 has put a spotlight on some of the most serious issues in health care: underfunding and short staffing.

“Staffing levels in long-term care have been inadequate for years. COVID-19 has exacerbated this issue, and our members are working short staffed more often than not,” added Seitz. “Physical distancing protocols such as in room dining for residents and increased cleaning requirements means we need more staff, not less.”

“The continuous masking policy is a start, but the government needs to take steps to ensure that it is being implemented across the health care sector, and all community- based services,” said Seitz. 

CUPE 5430 has secured a Letter of Understanding (LOU) protecting its members during redeployment. The LOU lays out the following protections for workers and residents:

  • Prevents workers from working in multiple facilities while maintaining their guaranteed hours.
  • Creates a labour pool for redeployment to respond to COVID-19 health care needs within clearly established parameters that protect the public and the workers.
  • For the duration of the agreement, there will be no new layoffs.
  • Employees who have been redeployed will be protected from incurring expenses, including accommodation where required.

All redeployed employees will be provided with orientation and training fitting with the situation at the receiving site which includes orientation and training to the required personal protective equipment (PPE) and provision of said PPE prior to commencing work.

“We have seen a significant rise in precarious work in our health care system. Many of our members are forced to work multiple jobs, across jurisdictions, to cobble together full-time equivalency work,” said Seitz. “This LOU will offer some protections to our members who are facing changes in the work environment from COVID-19.”