Saskatchewan government needs to do more than just consider a work-from-home policy

“Premier Moe needs to do more than just consider a work-from-home plan. The government needs to practice what they preach.” — Barry Nowoselsky, SGEU PS/GE Chairperson

Regina (25 Nov. 2020) — “The provincial government has dropped the ball on protecting the people of Saskatchewan from COVID-19,” says Barry Nowoselsky, Chairperson of the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union (SGEU/NUPGE) PS/GE bargaining unit, which represents workers in government ministries and agencies.

For months, the PS/GE bargaining unit has been waiting for the Public Service Commission of Saskatchewan to implement a remote work policy. A draft remote work policy was put on hold when the election was called.

Work from home policy long overdue

“It’s time to implement this policy and allow workers to access it,” says Nowoselsky. “Thousands of our members go to work every day — many of whom could be working from home to help decrease the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Our members are concerned that the government isn’t looking out for their best interests or the interests of Saskatchewan people.”

In a recent news conference, Premier Scott Moe said that his government will revisit whether its employees can resume working from home. So far, there has been no consistency in work-from-home directives, despite Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer recommending that people work from home as much as possible.

Working from home highly recommended by public health officials

“Premier Moe needs to do more than just consider a work-from-home plan. The government needs to practice what they preach,” Nowoselsky says.

The government’s most recent public health measures, which came into effect today, highly recommend that individuals work from home, and we are calling on the government to abide by that recommendation. Nowoselsky says that “at the very least, government offices should mandate workers to work from home wherever possible.”

In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, many SGEU members worked from home, and demonstrated that they could perform their duties effectively from outside their workplaces. COVID-19 numbers are now dramatically higher than they were at that time, but the province has so far required many of its employees to continue to report to work in their offices.

Province has been slow to act in other areas of public health

“We simply want the government to exercise as much caution as possible in keeping our members safe,” Nowoselsky says. “The government has already taken its time in implementing a mandatory mask requirement throughout the province. They need to act quickly in the fight against this virus. What we need is strong leadership.”

Saskatchewan currently has the third-highest rate of COVID-19 cases per capita of any province, with 104 cases per 100,000 people.

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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