SGEU president Bob Bymoen says CBO workers earn $8 to $10 an hour less than comparable employees in government departments
Regina (17 Sep. 2008) - The Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union (SGEU/NUPGE) says $18 million in new wage funding for the province's community-based organization sector (CBO) is welcome but more must be done.
Workers affected include addictions counselors, day care employees and others whose jobs are not grouped within the provincial social services sector.
"While workers in CBOs appreciate any new funding to help increase wages, the reality is that even after this new injection of cash many workers will continue to be paid poverty-level wages," says SGEU president Bob Bymoen. "It's a good start, but it is just not enough to even begin to close the wage gap."
Research has shown that CBO workers earn approximately $8 to $10 an hour less than staff who do comparable work in government departments.
"There is no justification for asking a certain group of workers to shoulder the financial burden of caring for the most vulnerable in our society. Yet, by continuing to pay sub-standard wages to CBO workers that is just what we are doing," adds Bymoen.
He estimates the funding may mean a 7% increase for most CBO workers but notes that percentage increases mean much less for lower-income workers than for a high-income earners.
"In other words, 7% of a poverty-level wage will not necessarily be enough to raise that worker out of poverty," Bymoen says, especially when compared with a "dramatic increase in the cost of living in Saskatchewan."
"At the end of the day, these workers will still struggle to buy groceries, pay rent and put gas in their car," he says. "The financial commitment to those who care for the province's most vulnerable people has to be deeper and more long-lasting to be meaningful."
He is also concerned that the money may not reach all workers in the sector since Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer has been quoted as saying that there have been no conditions put on the funding.
"This concerns us because it suggests that the money could go into administration, for example, rather than to wage increases for front-line workers," Bymoen adds.
SGEU represents CBO workers in 40 agencies across the province. The union has been working in a coalition with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for more than a decade to raise wages for workers in this sector. NUPGE