Reinstating masks right move for public safety after dangerous delay, more leadership needed

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.

“The provincial government has waited too long to listen to our health care workers facing burnout and overload, to our education workers witnessing alarming spikes of school infections, and to the many health experts and parents pleading for the Sask Party government to do more for public safety,” said Henley. “While the announcement today of a masking order was long and dangerously overdue, much more must be done than was outlined in the announcement. Urgent funding and supports must be provided to our front-line public service heroes.”

In addition to the interim masking order, a proof of vaccination or negative test requirement policy was announced effective October 1 which will apply to all provincial government, crowns and agencies staff. The government is also encouraging other employers to implement a similar policy.

“Policies for mandatory vaccinations and tests are not a replacement for the work needed to get vaccination numbers up and to provide safe workplaces through personal protective equipment, proper ventilation and cleaning regimes,” cautioned Henley. “It is necessary for the government and employers to consult with unions representing public sector employees before implementing the vaccination or negative test requirements policies on October 1.”

In a news conference today, the Chief Medical Health Officer states that the overall first dose vaccination rate is at 78 per cent, while the overall second dose vaccination rate is at 70 per cent.

“The government and employers must also do their part to make it easier and accessible for everyone to receive vaccinations and to close the gap for second doses,” added Henley.

CUPE represents 30,000 members working in a variety of public service occupations across Saskatchewan including: health care, K-12 school system, universities, libraries, municipalities, community-based organizations, and various boards and agencies.

Published by the Division Office / N.M. cope 342