In Saskatchewan, we are public service voters

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As CUPE members, we know that our work delivering a reliable network of public services enrich our communities and peoples’ lives. But, we need a government that will reliably fund and keep our services public. That’s why as we approach provincial and community elections this fall, it’s important to vote for public services.

Through the Public Service Voter campaign, CUPE Saskatchewan will highlight the many public services that keep our communities safe, cared for, and an affordable place to live and raise our families – and we will also highlight the facts and track record of governments at the community and provincial level.

Campaign information will be shared on CUPE Saskatchewan’s facebook page and available online at: www.publicservicevoter.ca

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Review finds P3 privatization still costs more, delivers less

A new report confirms that the Sask Party’s drive to privatize roads, schools and hospitals through public-private partnerships (P3s) is expensive and risky, setting our communities up for long-term problems.

The findings are detailed in an updated edition of Asking the Right Questions: A Guide for Municipal Officials Considering P3s, released by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). The guide documents the many costs and consequences of federal, provincial and municipal privatization schemes.

Asking the right questions has new evidence that P3s remain expensive and unaccountable, deliver lower-quality services and facilities, and are a bad deal for workers and communities. The report finds the arguments that P3 agencies, such as SaskBuilds, use to promote the schemes are based on flimsy facts and flawed assumptions.

“The Sask Party government has signed away billions in public funds for costly P3 deals, adding to the debt and locking us into 30 years of expensive private financing, shoddy construction, and problematic upkeep. The fact remains P3s are the worst way to build public infrastructure. Let’s set our kids and our grandkids up for a better future by ditching these bad deals once and for all,” said CUPE Saskatchewan President Judy Henley.

Some new examples of P3 problems in the guide are deals brokered by the Sask Party. P3s like the Regina Bypass are justified with secret reports that can’t be independently verified. Costs for the Regina Bypass P3 have ballooned from $400 million to nearly $2 billion.

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CUPE: This election is a chance to fix long-term care and save lives

Original editorial published in The Prince Albert Daily Herald on October 7, 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic has sounded the alarm on the state of long-term care in Canada.

Canadians have been horrified to learn that four out of five lives lost due to COVID-19 have been residents or workers in long-term care facilities – the worst record in the developed world. A report from the Canadian Forces, who were deployed to help manage outbreaks in several care homes, put into gruesome detail just how deep the crisis in long-term care had become, and sent shockwaves across the nation.

While the public is mostly just waking up to this reality, if you ask one of the thousands of CUPE members who work in long-term care in Saskatchewan, they will tell you that this crisis isn’t new. They will tell you that this crisis has been brewing for years. They will tell you COVID-19 fell like an avalanche onto a system that had already been broken and left totally unprepared by decades of underfunding and understaffing.

The election on October 26 is our best chance to reverse course and fix long-term care. Seven months after the novel coronavirus arrived, there’s no longer any excuse for being unprepared, and there’s no excuse for continued inaction.

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Labour Day 2020: Workers, public services deserve recognition for keeping our communities safe

A message from Judy Henley, President of CUPE Saskatchewan, printed in the Labour Day feature of the Regina Leader-Post and Saskatoon StarPhoenix (print issue: Friday, September 4, 2020).

This week I am reflecting on what Labour Day meant historically, what it will look like during the COVID-19 pandemic and what it may look like in the future.

Labour Day, a statutory holiday in Canada since 1894, was created to honour the labour movement and the social and economic achievement of workers. Every year we celebrate the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.

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CUPE supports Walking with our Angels camp and joins calls to address Saskatchewan’s suicide crisis

CUPE Saskatchewan President, Judy Henley, Secretary-Treasurer, Kent Peterson, and John McDonald, Senator on CUPE Saskatchewan’s Indigenous Council visited Tristen Durocher at the Walking with our Angels camp to drop off a donation and to hear from him directly.

Saskatchewan is facing a suicide crisis. Over the last 15 years, over 2,300 people in Saskatchewan have lost their lives to suicide – the highest suicide rate in Canada. The issue is especially critical in Northern Saskatchewan where young people are 10-30% percent higher than those in southern communities.

On July 2nd two young men, Tristen Durocher and Chris Merasty, have drawn national attention to this important issue. The pair walked 630 km from La Ronge to Regina to raise awareness of the crisis and call for immediate action. With no response from the government, Tristen Durocher and his allies set up a teepee across from the Legislature and began a hunger strike.

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Excuses from Prairie South School Division on cleaning cuts during pandemic just don’t add up

In a recent Regina Leader-Post article published online on August 19 and in the paper August 20, titled: “Prairie South SD says safety not impacted by cuts”, the chair of Prairie South Schools Board of Trustees, Robert Bachmann, has finally responded to the growing concern shared by parents and staff about the decision to cut over 20 hours of cleaning per day in Moose Jaw area schools. Bachmann is claiming that somehow cutting cleaning hours during a pandemic isn’t a safety risk. It’s a claim that just can’t be backed-up, and the excuses as to why it is occurring just don’t add up, says CUPE.

“There is no excuse to justify cutting school cleaning during a pandemic, and cleaning hours in Prairie South School Division should be restored and enhanced before the doors open for back-to-school in September,” says Judy Henley, president of CUPE Saskatchewan, in response to the article and the comments by the Division’s Board chair.

Custodial service cuts impact daily cleaning hours in AE Peacock Collegiate, Riverview Collegiate, Central Collegiate, Prince Arthur School, Westmount School, William Grayson School, and the 9th Avenue Board Office and Maintenance Building in Moose Jaw.

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Latest education announcement more smoke and mirrors

Statement from the CUPE Saskatchewan Education Workers.

Premier Scott Moe recently announced updates to the provincial governments “Safe Schools Plan” still falls short of the measures parents and staff are calling for.

Last week, Minister Gordan Wyant said that school divisions were able to access the province’s $200 million contingency fund, but that “no school division has asked for any additional funding at this point in time.” Yesterday Moe announced that a paltry $40 million of this funding would be available to school divisions – but only on an application basis.

An additional $40 million shared by over 800 schools does not go very far in ensuring safe environments for our students and staff.

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Updated return to school plan inadequate on student and staff safety

The Government of Saskatchewan’s latest tweaks to the Safe School Plan ignores expert advice and the concerns of many staff, parents, and students, says CUPE Saskatchewan’s Education Workers’ Steering Committee.

In the last week, the Public Health Officer of Canada came out with recommendations that students over the age of 10 wear masks, that students and teachers stay two metres apart wherever possible, and that students and teachers be grouped together to reduce the number of people they come into close contact with. This advice is echoed by physician organizations in Saskatchewan and across the country.

“The Ministry of Education is ignoring expert advice and passing the buck to school divisions,” said Jackie Christianson, chair of CUPE’s Education Workers’ Steering Committee. “Why is the government refusing to do their job – be strong leaders when it comes to keeping our students and staff safe?”

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Back-to-school plans fall short of protections needed for students and staff

The province’s largest union representing education support workers says the government’s approval of back-to-school plans in September announced today with eight common main components does not provide the conditions necessary for a safe return in these far from normal times.

“The plans to return back-to-school by the provincial government lack the overall prerequisite safeguards and resources needed to protect against virus transmission before full in-classroom learning begins,” said Judy Henley, president of CUPE Saskatchewan. “The rushed implementation and lack of key details leaves significant doubt that education staff and students will be properly protected.”

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CUPE’s letter to the Minister of Education ahead of final school re-open plans: Education support workers left out and lack the conditions for a safe return

CUPE Saskatchewan and its Education Workers Steering Committee have written a letter to the Minister of Education expressing concern over the final stages of planning to re-open schools this upcoming school year in September, highlighting the conditions that prevent a safe return with full in-classroom learning. The letter was issued today as The Regina Leader-Post reports that Saskatchewan is experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases in Canada.

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