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Workers from community-based agencies in Saskatchewan are challenging Premier Romanow and his government to raise wages in this sector, as the governments of Manitoba and BC have done.

The approximately 10,000 employees who work in group homes, vocational training centres, child care centres and other community agencies occupy some of the poorest paid jobs in the broader public sector, with incomes at or below the poverty line. Nearly all are women.

Although many of these agencies provide essential services to people on the margins the mentally and physically challenged, children, victims of violence they have been chronically under-funded.

Premier Romanow has an opportunity to change and substantially improve the lives of women working in these agencies, by announcing a major funding increase, says Regina group home worker Gail Tiefenbach. Its long overdue, she adds.

A wage study found employees in this sector earn about $10.00 less per hour than their counterparts in departments and agencies directly funded by the province.

To date, the governments response has been disheartening. In March, finance minister Cline announced a paltry 2 per cent increase which represents about 16 cents more an hour to employees in these community agencies.

Ms. Tiefenbach says community-based agencies need another $40 million to provide adequate wages, pension plans and benefits to employees.

Were hoping the premier will take action to support working women in the broader public sector, says Ms. Tiefenbach. But if he doesnt act, we will, she states.

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