Saskatchewan government grinds talks with care workers to an impasse

(Moose Jaw) Instead of working to come to an agreement, the government has allowed negotiations between the Public Service Commission and CUPE Local 600 to come to an impasse. The union represents close to 385 Social Services and Central Services workers across the province who help to deliver frontline care and support to the most vulnerable people in Saskatchewan. The local has been without a collective agreement for almost two years.

“Over the last year and a half, the government has shown no desire to try to come to an agreement,” said Jacalyn Luterbach, President of CUPE Local 600. “We’ve had 29 meetings and the only things the government has agreed to are housekeeping items and language that is required by law. It’s become clear that, without the help of a mediator, the government will never agree to a deal.”

The union entered negotiations on October 2017 with proposals that include keeping up with the cost of living through modest wage increases and new scheduling models that would improve the care that workers are able to provide, as well as their own work/life balance. While costing nothing, the changes would result in less burnout, improved safety, and even better care for the people they serve. The proposal would also help address issues the government themselves have identified such as excessive overtime and lack of available relief staff.

“Wages have been frozen since 2015 and this is not the first time we’ve spoken to the government about needing to ensure more balance in the scheduling. None of this is a surprise to them,” said Luterbach who also noted that the cost of living has increased by 6.7 per cent since 2015. “It’s offensive that they won’t consider helping our members keep up with the rising cost of living and it’s frustrating that they won’t take the health and safety of these workers seriously.”

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