The Community-Based Organization (CBO) sector carries out critical work for vulnerable community members all across Saskatchewan. At the same time, the sector is poorly funded, workers are underpaid, and their work is undervalued.
Over 30 CUPE locals across Saskatchewan are involved in the CBO sector. Cindy Lasko represents one of them. She works at Prairie Branches Enterprises, which offers a variety of supports through group homes, day programs, supportive employment, and supportive independent living. She is also the president of CUPE Local 3583, which represents around 80 group home workers in Unity, Wilkie and Kerrobert.
On a normal day, Lasko works closely with group home residents to assist them with day-to-day living, helping them with things like cooking, cleaning, laundry, banking, and grocery shopping. Wherever they go she’s there to help.
It’s a rewarding job but challenging too. COVID-19 has added a new layer of stress to her job and her life outside of work.
Lasko says one of her key concerns is how government guidelines and supports always seem to skip over group home workers. “The government has single site provisions and new protections for some care workers, but they never mention us. We should be treated like long-term care or childcare.”
Conditions in the group homes have become severe, at times. Lasko says that appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is hard to come by, staff are not given proper training, and recalls times the group homes have run out of even the most basic essentials.
The stress of lacking basic supplies, appropriate PPE, and support from the government is creating confusion and anxiety for workers like her. “Every day when I go to work, I’m scared today’s the day I’m going to get it,” she says. “At the end of the day, you come home, you strip down at the door, and you just hope you don’t bring it home to your family.”
Through all of the challenges they face, CUPE Local 3583 members are moving forward with dedication and perseverance. Their important work is helping to keep their communities, and some of the most vulnerable members afloat during the crisis of our lifetimes. “We just want to go to work knowing we are all safe.”