On May Day 2021, CUPE Saskatchewan stands in solidarity with workers and their unions around the world in the demand to turn appreciation for our front-line heroes and all the workers who build the real economy into greater action. 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. 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.
One year into the public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of strong public services and the workers who provide them. While workers have stepped up to deliver the services on which we rely, employers and governments have been slow to act on providing the safety protections and support workers deserve. Too many workers are getting ill at work and losing their lives because of their jobs, as faster-spreading variants pose new danger. Too many workers are still without access to paid sick days. Too many workers are still without a living wage and retirement security. The pandemic has exposed long-standing inequalities that must now be redressed. It has also exposed the failure of handing over public services such as long-term care to privatization and for-profit companies, which we must now demand be fixed by making long-term care part of our public universal health care system.
On the National Day of Mourning for workers killed or injured on the job, CUPE Saskatchewan joins Canada’s unions in recognizing the devastating human cost of COVID-19. For over a year, the public health crisis of the pandemic has highlighted how important the fight for workplace safety remains.
Across Canada, we have now witnessed over a million cases and more than 23,000 deaths. In Saskatchewan, over 470 deaths have been recorded. These numbers include workers who have contracted COVID-19 because of their jobs and became ill or died as a result. Since the beginning of 2020, 14 CUPE members have died as a result of their work across the country delivering public services. Ten of these deaths were due to COVID-19. Last year, a total of 34 workers across Saskatchewan died as a result of a workplace injury or a disease they contracted while at work.
No worker should be injured, made sick, or lose their life because of their job. Throughout the pandemic, CUPE Saskatchewan has joined with fellow unions across the country demanding more protections to keep workers safe, access to personal protective equipment, vaccination priority for all front-line workers, rapid testing in our schools, and adequate paid sick days for all workers. Conditions on the frontlines of the pandemic are also affecting the mental health of workers, and resources for members and Local Unions are available to assist. As the pandemic moves into its second year, we will continue the fight to keep members safe – and to hold employers and governments accountable for workers’ rights to health and safety on the job.
CUPE Local 5512, CUPE Saskatchewan and the Education Workers’ Steering Committee are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of a CUPE educational assistant who worked at King George School in Moose Jaw.
Our thoughts are with her family, friends and co-workers during this difficult time.
The Saskatchewan Division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE Saskatchewan) is currently accepting applications from members of affiliated Local Unions to serve on the Task Force for Member Engagement.
Applications for consideration of appointment must be received by no later than Monday, May 10, 2021.
CUPE members in good standing of affiliated Local Unions are eligible to apply.
April 22 is Earth Day – a day to recognize the climate change emergency and the action needed to restore our earth. With the world continuing to head for a catastrophic temperature rise and human caused destruction threatening the earth’s ecosystems needed to sustain life, Earth Day 2021 is an important time to renew our resolve to demand more urgent environmental action from governments, employers and within our communities in the transition to a zero-carbon economy. Action on the environment to build a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will safeguard our health in the future and that of our only planet.
2021 will launch the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly, set to officially commence during World Environment Day on June 5, which aims to halt the already significant degradation of ecosystems and achieve global goals of restoration on every continent and in every ocean. The decade coincides with the deadline for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and timeline identified by scientists as the last chance to prevent catastrophic climate change.
At its meeting on April 16, the Executive Board of CUPE Saskatchewan passed a motion to endorse the candidates of Team Unite in the upcoming elections at the 2021 CLC Convention being held virtually on June 16 through to June 18, 2021.
“With Team Unite, we can reset the Canadian Labour Congress with renewed leadership to build a stronger labour movement,” said Judy Henley, President of CUPE Saskatchewan. “I encourage all CUPE locals in Saskatchewan to support this outstanding team of progressive women to unite the labour movement by sending delegates to the upcoming virtual CLC Convention in June.”
Team Unite includes the following candidates:
• Bea Bruske for CLC President;
• Lily Chang for CLC Secretary-Treasurer; and
• Siobhan Vipond for CLC Executive Vice-President.
CUPE locals are encouraged to register delegates for the virtual CLC convention and to support the election of Team Unite and important constitutional amendments put forward by CUPE.
CUPE Saskatchewan is renewing its calls for immediate access to the COVID-19 vaccine for essential workers, especially those in our education sector, service industry, and people working within vulnerable communities.
“The latest eligibility expansion finally includes many health care workers, but education workers, childcare workers, and many service industry positions are still left waiting,” said Judy Henley, president of CUPE Saskatchewan. “Delayed access to vaccination is risking the lives of essential workers and contributing to the further spread of COVID-19.”
Other jurisdictions, like British Columbia, included education and childcare workers in early phases of the vaccine rollout because of recorded outbreaks and the vital role they play in the workforce.
On April 14, wearing pink brings us together in solidarity to take action against bullying and to support the equality and inclusion of LGBTQ2+ members of our union and community.
This year’s theme for Day of Pink is: Let’s Say Game Over to Cyberbullying. Whether in our workplaces or virtual workspaces, school or our online classroom spaces during remote learning, communities or on social media, bullying is a serious problem. While online spaces and social media have connected us as we reduce in-person gatherings and stay apart, we know that these spaces are not always safe – and the pandemic has worsened inequalities and given rise to new incidents of bullying and violence that need to be challenged. Three in 10 respondents reported harassment in the workplace, and almost a third of all respondents reported experiences of online harassment, in a recent study conducted by Statistics Canada on the experiences of discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic. CUPE has a long history fighting for equality and the right for every worker to be safe from bullying and harassment, and we continue to be leaders as a union in advocating for safer communities and equal access to public services.
The Saskatchewan Party government today presented an austerity budget that relies on federal funding to address the effects of COVID-19, while ignoring its own provincial responsibility to provide stable, long-term health care and education funding, according to the president of CUPE Saskatchewan.
“On many occasions, the province claims they are providing record funding, but in most cases, they also acknowledge that much of that funding is coming from the federal government,” said Judy Henley, president of CUPE Saskatchewan.
In a letter sent today to Finance Minister Donna Harpauer, CUPE, SEIU-West, and SGEU are asking that next week’s provincial budget include commitments to multi-year funding for community-based organizations.
The letter, titled “CBOs to Sask Party: Is this year our Lucky 13?” points out that thirteen years ago, Harpauer – then the Minister of Social Services – held a consultation with CBOs to identify challenges in the sector and hear ideas on how the government might address them.
At that time, CBOs, unions and workers told the Sask Party that single-year funding was one of their biggest challenges to providing quality services in the community, and proposed a move to a multi-year funding model.
Thirteen years later, CBOs are still waiting for an answer – and in the meantime, workers and the vulnerable people they serve are left struggling needlessly. As the letter notes, “Getting one year of funding at a time makes it impossible to provide stable, reliable services to clients. Organizations never know from one year to the next if they’ll be able to keep their doors open to provide the meaningful services that make our communities stronger.”