“If we received the same funding, we wouldn’t have wage disparity. They need to strike every time just to be treated equally. It’s not fair to them and it’s not fair to our Elders.” — Kathleen Bluesky, Chief Executive Officer, Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation
Winnipeg (25 Jan. 2018) — After nearly a year in negotiations with their employer, members of the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU/NUPGE) who work for the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation's Personal Care Home voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action.
Workers continue quest for wage parity
“Our Local 367 members currently make 14 per cent less than workers at other care homes, even though they have the same training and job descriptions,” said Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU President. “It’s unfair and it’s gone on for far too long.”
This is not the first time these members have gone on strike. At the end of 2017, the support workers walked a strike line for almost 3 weeks, for the same reason. In the end, they received a 13 per cent wage increase, which went about halfway to addressing the inequity in pay.
Governments need to increase funding for First Nations personal care homes
Leaders of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (NCN) say they have been working for some time with the federal government (which funds 17 beds), and the provincial government (which funds the other 7 beds), to increase funding. But so far, no commitments have been made.
“The reality is that all First Nations personal care homes are underfunded, even though we provide the same care and services as other rural care homes that are 100 per cent funded by the province,” says Kathleen Bluesky, Chief Executive Officer of the NCN. “If we received the same funding, we wouldn’t have wage disparity. Our employees are feeling disrespected and frustrated. They need to strike every time just to be treated equally. It’s not fair to them and it’s not fair to our Elders.”
Gawronsky says what’s needed at this point is a commitment from both governments to address the inequity once and for all.
“Our members are deeply committed to the Elders in their care,” she said. “It should never come to this. But our members also know their community is behind them in their fight for fairness.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE