These last few days (weeks) have been pretty busy for people in the public sector. With our Premier musing (really?!) about cutbacks, layoffs, rollbacks and re-opening collective agreements, we have seen our Minister of Finance announce this as an economic plan in the press; we have heard rumblings of the same in the health sector; and received a copy of the Minister of Education’s announcement to the school divisions. On top of this, there has been an announcement of a deal between the federal and provincial government about increased funding for home care and mental health services.
And our members have not disappointed: through calls, emails, texts, and messages to the MRC, they have raised their concerns about what this means for them, their families and their communities. Their concerns have been about the public services we provide and how they might be impacted. And their concerns have been around the state of bargaining, whether it’s in health care or education.
So here’s what we know:
- Prior to Christmas, we held meetings at most of our units to discuss our assessment of the impact of transformational change news coming from our provincial government. We called these “listening cafes” so that we could hear from our membership – what are their fears, their strengths, what issues are live and real within their communities and how are we doing generally. These sessions have been of great value to our union and our members because we were able to share everything that we have been hearing.
- During the recent 2016 year end interview, Premier Brad Wall began his ‘musing’ about wage rollbacks and layoffs in the public sector. SEIU-West responded with this media release: Wall’s Musings Don’t Address Budget Shortfall. It was sent out to all media outlets and faxed out to each of our units so hopefully you would see this on your union bulletin board. Alternatively, you can also check (routinely) our website or the Facebook page. I was contacted by media outlets for interviews and at the end of this message, there are a number of links to articles that you can read and share. While I am sure that you know that the media don’t always report our message with the words we would use, they do seem to understand that SEIU-West was outraged by the content of the Premier’s message and his manner of communicating it.
- Since this time, we have learned about the government’s decision to move to one large provincial health region. SEIU-West has responded to this message with another media release: One Region to Rule Them All and sent a mass email to all of our members who have provided their email to us for communication of priority items. This mass email provides a link for members (and others) to submit a letter to our Health Minister Jim Reiter. We have a serious sense of mistrust that our government is taking us all down a path that will lead to more layoffs, increased cuts to funding, together with forced rollbacks and will inevitably lead to the deterioration of our health care services.
- On January 17th, in response to the Minister of Finance’s austerity announcement, we provided yet another media release: New Federal Money Welcome but Won’t Fix short-Sighted Plans and I have continued to take the position that our government is not accepting their responsibility for our grim financial situation. Building strong local economies cannot be managed with an austerity strategy. We need to have good jobs and strong public services. Not only have I have been doing a lot of media calls recently, I have been busy answering our members’ calls and emails to address their concerns.
- SEIU-West has been actively participating in the consultation processes and setting out our concerns in a brief (on both education and health care). We have also been meeting with the Minister of Education and the Ministry of Health in order to raise issues with this tactic and set out solutions that our members have provided to us. There doesn’t appear to be an actual ‘plan’ for how these changes are being rolled out which is a huge concern because of the amount of anxiety that it levels on our members’ shoulders.
Finally, in respect to bargaining issues. We have struck bargaining committees for our health sector (SAHO and Extendicare) and for our education sector (SE Cornerstone and Holy Family SD) and we do have pages on the website for bargaining updates. SEIU-West has been meeting with the other health provider unions to discuss our coalition bargaining issues/strategy and we have reached out to both CUPE and the SK Teachers Federation to talk about the impending changes in the education sector. We will provide updates and we will, of course, continue to have meetings in all of our units. If you would like to be added to the email distribution list for SEIU-West updates, let me know and we’ll get you added to the list.
I hope that this answers your many questions. Please know that I am eager to continue dialogue with you and I am inspired by your engagement with SEIU-West on these very important issues. I urge you to get on our BSD (mass email list) so as to stay up to date and I am grateful that our members share the perspective of so many other valued public service workers. Should you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to contact us and stay in touch.
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