“It’s disturbing that the minister doesn’t want to work with us to find solutions to a problem that affects not only service providers, but the most vulnerable people in this province. We urge her to reconsider.” — Bob Bymoen, SGEU President
Regina (06 Jan. 2017) — The Minister of Social Services is refusing to meet with the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU/NUPGE) to discuss a growing number of vacant Social Services positions, according to the union.
Provincial government has responsibility to provide adequate services to residents of northern Saskatchewan
In October 2016, the Ministry of Social Services identified more than 30 vacant positions in its northern service area. Since then, government has posted 60 positions in Social Services, but despite a severe shortage of Social Services employees in the north, most new hires are in the southern and central areas of the province. Only 12 new positions are in communities north of Prince Albert, and 7 of those are part-time or term jobs.
In a letter received by SGEU/NUPGE on January 3, Social Services Minister Tina Beaudry-Mellor canceled a meeting with SGEU/NUPGE that had been scheduled for January 10, saying that “these issues should be raised at [the bargaining] table.”
“Properly staffing the ministry isn’t an issue that can or will be dealt with in bargaining,” says Bob Bymoen, SGEU President. “This is an issue of the ministry needing to recognize necessary staffing levels, and ensure they are met, so that proper services can be provided to clients. We can only negotiate on behalf of the ministry’s workers while at the bargaining table, we can’t compel it to hire more people.”
Survey says: understaffing compromises care and health of residents and workers
A survey of SGEU/NUPGE members who work in Social Services, conducted by an independent research company, found that almost 90 per cent of workers say their workplaces are not adequately staffed on a consistent basis, resulting in increased workloads.
Almost 6 out of 10 workers say their workload issues are caused by unfilled staff positions, and 8 out of 10 workers say that job cuts between 2010 and 2014 — which resulted in the loss of 76 full-time equivalent jobs from the Ministry of Social Services — have meant a loss of front-line staff, negatively impacting clients in their work area.
“The fact that most of the vacancies are in northern Saskatchewan is especially disconcerting,” says Bymoen.
Social Services Minister would benefit by meeting with SGEU/NUPGE members
“Northern communities are dealing with tragic losses,” he says. “They’re grappling with severe and complex social problems, including devastating suicides among young people. For these reasons, the number of vacancies in the north is especially alarming, and the ministry should be taking immediate steps to fill these vacancies to ensure the critical needs of northerners are met.”
Bymoen says the ministry could benefit from a meeting with SGEU/NUPGE, whose members are on the front-line providing support, programs and services to people.
“It’s disturbing that the minister doesn’t want to work with us to find solutions to a problem that affects not only service providers, but the most vulnerable people in this province. We urge her to reconsider.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 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