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CUPE workers threaten to strike over wages, work hours

Members of CUPE Local 600 have voted 94 per cent to take job action up to, and including, a full withdrawal of services
(file photo)

Another group of union workers is threatening to strike if it doesn’t receive fairer wages and a better work-life balance.

Members of CUPE Local 600 have voted 94 per cent to take job action up to, and including, a full withdrawal of services, the union explained in a news release.

The union represents nearly 385 workers across Saskatchewan who work in the Ministry of Social Services and Ministry of Central Services. These employees deliver frontline care and support to the province’s vulnerable residents.

The two main issues at the bargaining table are better wages and improved hours of work.

The local is not yet in a legal strike position and will not be until essential service negotiations are complete. Negotiations on essential services are expected to start in the near future.

“Recent changes to how the provincial government provides services for people living with intellectual disabilities is putting more pressure on our members,” said Jacalyn Luterbach, president of CUPE Local 600. “Workload and caseload are increasing across the board and in every classification, and the current shift schedule in crisis and planned respite homes is unsustainable.”

Employees at these offices work six days straight of eight-hour shifts with fewer than two days off, the news release said. These shifts are a combination of day, evening and night shifts with quick turnarounds. Often staff are working two to three different shifts in a week. Employees are exhausted and have little time off for home life.

Union employees have reported facing problems of fatigue, health problems and mood issues due to time away from work for rest, Luterbach said in the news release. The union is seeing increased sick time, increased reliance on overtime and the employer mandating more increases.

“Our members are being run ragged. We deserve a solution before this health and safety issue gets any further out of control,” he stated.

CUPE Local 600 is proposing to move from an eight-hour shift model to a 12-hour shift model, which is the standard throughout the health authority and at the former Valley View Centre. This proposal would not cost the employer any extra money and could end up saving money by reducing overtime.

“Our members are asking for a fair monetary offer and for a shift schedule that makes sense,” added Luterbach. “This strike mandate shows that our members are united and willing to fight for a fair deal.”