Registration is now open for the CUPE Saskatchewan Indigenous Peoples Conference to be held in-person, subject to any public health restrictions, on November 4 to 5, 2021, in Saskatoon. The annual conference seeks to build union activism with a focus on equality and rights for Indigenous people in our workplaces and in our communities.
Yesterday, Premier Scott Moe announced new health measures to stem the surge of COVID-19 cases that is endangering Saskatchewan residents’ lives and threatening the integrity of our health care system. Unfortunately, the premier is still not taking the fourth wave seriously enough. Education workers in this province welcome these measures but need the province to know that they are not enough.
“The education system is already seeing outbreaks all over the province,” said Rob Westfield, an education support worker and chair of CUPE Saskatchewan’s Education Workers’ Steering Committee. “Our provincial leaders have failed to protect children and the people who work with them every day.”
Getting vaccination numbers up will require more concerted efforts for education, availability and employer cooperation, says CUPE.
“Public sector workers have been on the frontline of the pandemic since day one and have been warning that more must be done to support them and control the growing infection rates in our health care system, and in our schools, and classrooms. After ignoring all the danger signs of a fourth wave, the provincial government has shown up too little too late to provide the leadership we need during the latest pandemic crisis point,” said Judy Henley, President of CUPE Saskatchewan.
Saskatchewan was among the first to re-open and ditch restrictions and the last to urgently reinstate public health measures with the announcement today of an interim province-wide mandatory masking order for all indoor public spaces effective September 17.
More than 250 members of CUPE Local 5435 have ratified their first collective agreement after almost eight months of bargaining made more difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic. The agreement will provide higher standards for working conditions in private group homes, where the majority of the local’s members work.
The group homes run by CBI, where members of the local are employed, experience some of the highest staff turnover rates in the province because of pay disparity, the state of relationships between workers and management, and other issues. Alex Osei-Owusu, president of Local 5435, said members are optimistic this agreement will give them the tools to change these longstanding items.
The pandemic has made clear that we depend on public services and the workers who provide them to keep our communities safe and strong.
We owe so much to our front-line heroes for their courage and commitment delivering vital services, and we have many more unsung heroes to recognize and appreciate for their efforts – often working behind the scenes, and far too often taken for granted.
Amid a fourth wave and a federal election, this Labour Day is as much a celebration of hard-fought past achievements for workers as it is a time to join in solidarity, to demand better for all workers and to call for stronger public services. The fight against the coronavirus demands that employers and governments take care of the workers who are taking care of all of us and our communities, and a recovery from the pandemic must not go back to the way things were – but the structural change long overdue for greater economic, social and climate justice.
The report, Caring in Crisis, shows how Parkside Extendicare failed its residents and workers on several fronts: supply and use of masks, physical distancing, ventilation and air flow, staff screening, testing, and cohorting. Most damning perhaps, is the finding that Parkside Extendicare did not have a pandemic plan in place to deal with an outbreak months into the COVID-19 pandemic. Parkside Extendicare was not in compliance with the November 18, 2020 public health order for two weeks leading up to the outbreak.
Saskatchewan’s lower-than-expected deficit for the 2020-21 fiscal year is a false economy and belies under-investment in the front-line workers and public services that got us through the worst of the pandemic, says CUPE Saskatchewan in response to the final results released by the provincial government for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021.
This Canada Day, we pause for somber reflection after the recent tragic discovery of the unmarked graves of children buried at the sites of former residential schools. We stand united in collective grief to mourn the Indigenous lives lost to the painful legacy of violence through colonialism. These recent events, and the effort to conduct more searches at former sites, are a painful reminder of our past and the ongoing harm of colonialism that must now be a turning point for truth and reconciliation. Canada Day is also a time to reflect on the many long-standing inequalities exposed by the pandemic that must now be redressed – as we stand up for workers’ rights and demand access to paid sick leave for all workers, a living wage, and stronger public services to build more fairness and better living standards in our communities.
Our solidarity as workers in demanding action for justice, for truth and reconciliation, for fairness in our workplaces and society, and for access to quality public services will build a future that we can all celebrate.
National Indigenous Peoples’ Day on June 21 is an annual opportunity to honour and celebrate the diverse cultures of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. The annual celebrations are also a time to call for greater action for truth and reconciliation, after a challenging year that has exposed long-standing structural injustice through the pandemic and the painful legacy of violence through colonialism faced by Indigenous peoples as we collectively mourn the recent tragic discovery of 215 Indigenous children buried at a mass grave site at the Kamloops Residential School in Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc territory, British Columbia. CUPE Saskatchewan stands in solidarity to mourn the victims of Kamloops Residential School, and we join the collective call for greater action for truth and reconciliation.
June is Pride month in many communities across Saskatchewan – a time to celebrate our LGBTQ2+ members and renew our resolve to advance and organize for equality in the workplace and in the community. Many of the events usually held in-person to celebrate Pride have been moved to virtual formats to keep safe during the pandemic. Click here for links to Pride events in Saskatchewan.