What’s one word to describe our SEIU-West experiences in 2017? Engaging. While our SEIU-West family faced many new challenges, we also had a lot of fun as more and more members became active in our union. As we approach a new year, let’s revisit some of the highlights and memorable events we shared together in 2017:
SEIU-West continues to promote the valuable work our members do in health care, education, community based organizations, and in the private sector. By visiting www.purpleworks.ca, you’ll find member profiles that detail our members’ wide-ranging jobs and personal connections to their work. It is vital that we publicly share and promote our members as they are our union. We therefore encourage members to fill out a ‘Member Profile Form’, or ‘Nominate Your Fellow SEIU-West Member’ in order to spread awareness on the important work SEIU-West members do each and every day.
Throughout the year, SEIU-West celebrates our members’ recognition days on www.purpleworks.ca as well. Examples include:
Our Purple Works campaign also serves as an opportunity to share community stories because our members not only add great value to workplaces, but also to our communities. A few examples of these member initiatives include support for Tampon Tuesday, a campaign that collected feminine hygiene products for women in need. Members also organized community BBQs to raise money for local food banks and participated in a number of awareness events such as the MACSI FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) March or the Aids Walk for Life.
SEIU-West has a goal of engaging more members each year, so we continue to develop our communication methods. By using varied methods to connect with members, SEIU-West is able to meet our members’ preferred communication method. Our central communication hub is our www.seiuwest.ca website. We encourage members to make this page their homepage and/or check back weekly as this website is constantly sharing new information that is important to members. We also regularly post on our Twitter and Facebook pages – if you haven’t yet, please follow us @PurpleWorksSEIU and like us on Facebook! You’ll find contest information, bargaining updates, campaign details, infographics, and so much more! Another great way to stay connected with SEIU-West is to sign up for our email blasts. You’ll also want to sign up for our SEIU-West text messaging platform for quick, easy updates (and some contests that are sent text-only!)
SEIU-West has also recently launched its Virtual Bulletin Board, a great resource for all members to get basic union information such as upcoming events, collective agreements, educationals and more.
SEIU-West keeps members informed with its quarterly Front Line – Standing Up & Standing Strong newsletter as well. This newsletter often highlights new member stories, campaigns, and current events. Each SEIU-West Unit receives copies of the newsletter, and you can also find all our newsletters online.
Our YouTube Channel is another way to receive information as we often upload member and campaign videos.
New in 2017 is the launch of our SEIU-West Instagram account! This account allows members to see the fun side of their fellow union members in pictures – our hashtag is suitably, #PurpleHasFun! Our Instagram account had its soft launch in early December – we’re excited to see it grow!
Who loves contests? Our members do! Engaging members through contests is a great way to share important information and have fun. And we happily see contest participation increase each year with the help of our expanding communication methods. Here’s a few contest examples that had high member engagement:
- Environment Week Contest
- Summer Staycation Contest
- Let’s All Go To The Movies Contest
- Festival of Trees Contest
- Universal Children’s Day Contest
- MLA Madness Summer of Action Contest
Our contests often relate to special dates and awareness events that we highlight as a weekly feature on www.seiuwest.ca. These dates and events not only help our communities’ progress, they often draw attention to the important work of our community allies. Some examples include:
- Day of Action and Remembrance of Violence Against Women – our Red Day Awareness Event supported our friends at PATHS (Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan)
- Labour Day – we supported the CLC (Canadian Labour Congress) to promote National Pharmacare on this important date
- National Aboriginal Day – we shared the urgent work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Principles and 94 Calls to Action
- Pride Month – we aimed to capture the many Pride events occurring throughout Saskatchewan, and connected our members to the various Pride groups
- Earth Day – we attended and shared Saskatoon’s March for Science, organized by Climate Justice Saskatoon, March for Science Saskatoon, and Women’s March Saskatoon
- International Women’s Day: we helped organize a Rally for Saskatchewan in Regina alongside many other organizations and unions, like SGEU, Unifor, CUPE, COPE and Students Mobilizing Against Cuts (SMAC)
In addition to recognizing these important dates with our allies, we have also supported our allies in many other ways. Our Young Workers Committee has developed our relationship with PATHS in our shared effort to pass legislation to support survivors of domestic violence. We have partnered with SMAC for many events, including their Rally for Education in Saskatoon. We have often worked with Climate Justice Saskatoon to advocate for climate action in Saskatchewan, and we have built our relationship with the new provincial organization, Stop the Cuts, by working together to reverse the many brutal cuts in the 2017 Saskatchewan Budget.
Politics and Campaigns
Speaking of the 2017 Saskatchewan Budget, we now enter politics and campaigns! SEIU-West has a mandate to improve the lives of working people and their families, and lead the way to a more just and humane society. That means we must immerse ourselves in politics as political decisions affect our wellbeing.
The 2017 Budget certainly affected our communities’ wellbeing and sent a shockwave throughout Saskatchewan. We saw five health care programs cut including spiritual care and the hearing aid program. We saw the closure of our valued STC, a PST increase, mandated public service wage rollbacks, and huge cuts to education, libraries, social services, and community-based organizations – just to name a few examples. And while we experienced service cuts and higher taxes, corporations received a generous tax reduction! It’s no wonder Saskatchewan people were – and remain – angry!
In response to the Saskatchewan Budget, SEIU-West has organized and responded in many different ways. We imagine you’ve noticed a jump in the number of protests across the province – and SEIU-West has definitely organized its fair share! Here are a number of actions against the cuts that we’ve organized and/or supported since the release of the 2017 Saskatchewan Budget in March of this year:
|1. Rally for Saskatchewan – Regina: March 8||2. Budget Town Hall – Saskatoon: March 20|
|3. Save STC & Stop the Cuts Rally – Regina: March 28||4. Students Mobilizing Against Cuts Rally and March – Regina: March 30|
|5. Rally to Stop Bill 40 & Stop the Cuts – Saskatoon: March 31,||6. Rally to Stop Bill 40 & Stop the Cuts – Prince Albert: March 31|
|7. Save STC Rally – Saskatoon: March 31||8. Rally to Stop Bill 40 & Stop the Cuts – Moose Jaw: April 5|
|9. Save Our Libraries Rally – Across Saskatchewan: April 7||10. Stop the Cuts Rally & Town Hall – Swift Current: April 20|
|11. Protest at the Premier’s Fundraiser – Saskatoon: April 27||12. 5 Days Against Cuts – Regina: May 1-5|
|13. Save Our Schools Rally – Swift Current: May 5||14. Rally to Save STC – Prince Albert: May 15|
|15. Rally to Stop the Cuts – Regina: May 16||16. Day of Action! Save Local Jobs and Economies – Across Saskatchewan: May 17|
|17. Stand Up for Saskatchewan Rally – Regina: May 24||18. I will Remember STC Campaign – Saskatoon: May 31|
|19. Hands Off My Crowns – Moose Jaw: June 22||20. Cold Heart Award Rally and March – Saskatoon: June 22|
|21. Hands Off My Crowns – Saskatoon: June 28||22. Save our CBOs Protest – Sask Landing Golf Resort: July 7|
|23. Rally to Repeal the Budget – Saskatoon: August 15||24. Human Banner at the Sask Party Golf Tournament: August 31|
|25. Strong Communities Town Hall – Saskatoon: September 6||26. Rise Up Rally – Moose Jaw: September 19|
|27. Rise Up Rally – Swift Current: September 26||28. Rally for Education – Saskatoon: October 3|
|29. Support Students Rally – Moose Jaw: October 13||30. Rally in Support of Public Libraries – Saskatoon: October 16|
|31. We’re Not Gonna Take It Rally – Saskatoon: October 18||32. Rally to Reverse the Cuts – Regina: October 25|
|33. Satirical Profits Before People Protest – Saskatoon: November 4||34. Yes to Public Services, No to Cuts Banner Drop – Moose Jaw: November 7|
|35. Yes to Public Services, No to Cuts Rally at the Minister of Labour’s Office – Saskatoon: November 9|
As you can see, we’ve been busy! And our efforts are working. Our collective actions have pressured the government to partially reverse the library cuts, reverse the cuts to health-funded CBOs, and stop the new corporate tax cut. Also, we have partially reversed the cut to funding for funeral services, partially reversed Bill 40 (privatization bill), and temporarily put a hold on the 3.5% cut to public service workers for one year – but there is still so much work we need to do. We want to see full restoration of the five health care programs, we want to see the cuts fully reversed in education – both K-12 and post-secondary – and we want to make sure public service workers do not face a wage rollback this year, or any year. Essentially, we want a full stop to all the cuts.
The 2017 Saskatchewan Budget demonstrates our government’s attempt to lower our expectations when it comes to government services – they’ve also demonstrated that attempt with ‘Transformational Change’ (TC).
For our members, TC has meant school division reviews and a massive change to our health care system. The Saskatchewan government did very little meaningful consultation before they decided to eliminate 12 health regions and create one mega health authority. In response, SEIU-West has been engaging members in a series of Listening Cafés to ensure our response to public sector changes was led by our members’ priorities and concerns. These gatherings are also an opportunity to share information, and to talk about local issues and how they connect to every member across the province. SEIU-West heard common priorities such as concern for staffing levels, seniority, and the survival of our public health care due to this government’s reputation of favouring privatization (as demonstrated by their attempt to redefine privatization under Bill 40 and the closure of the STC). From member concerns came action (as demonstrated through protests above) but also through letter campaigns to our MLAs about the importance of good jobs, the Minister of Health about our concerns in the shift to one health region and the Ministers of Health and Rural and Remote Health regarding our Diagnostic Imaging Technologists concerns over potential wage cuts.
Members have also written and called their MLA. We’ve mailed hundreds of letters to the Minister of Health, and collected countless petitions to stop the cuts. Health care members have met with twelve Sask Party MLAs in order to talk about TC as well – you can see a report here.
All year, members have shared their union’s TC pamphlets and posters with their communities – having conversations is a great way to gain support! Members have also submitted many letters to the editor about the impacts of TC.
SEIU-West member leaders have also made presentations to Town Councils and Rural Municipalities about the impact of TC. To date, we have met with Davidson, Wadena, Maple Creek, Eastend, Saskatoon and the RM of Lakeview.
As you can see, members have been loud and proud with their message of no to cuts, yes to strong public services. For more information about TC, please visit our TC page on our website.
In relation to staffing levels, we continue to promote Long Terms Cares, a campaign that demands the government reintroduce minimum staffing levels in long term care facilities. We also launched a new staffing letter campaign called ‘Patient First Requires Safe Staffing’ which advocates for safe staffing across health care – we hope you will participate. We also encourage members to fill out their Workload Tracking Forms – they are very easy to fill out and provide tangible evidence to health region representatives and politicians that they must take short staffing seriously.
We know there are serious shortfalls when it comes to support for survivors of domestic violence – especially in Saskatchewan, where we have the highest level of intimate partner violence amongst all provinces. The SEIU-West Young Workers Committee have continued to push for job security, paid leave and support for those who experience domestic violence – they’ve lobbied the government and partnered with the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan (PATHS) in order to pass legislation that would provide paid and unpaid leave for survivors of domestic violence. On December 6 2017, the Day of Action and Remembrance of Violence Against Women, the Saskatchewan government passed legislation that would allow workers to access 10 unpaid days of work as a result of domestic violence. SEIU-West has mixed feelings about this step. While it is a step in the right direction and we are certainly proud of the efforts of our Young Workers Committee, PATHS and the SFL, it does not come close to what is required to support survivors of domestic violence. That’s why we’ve revamped our petition to demand that workers experiencing domestic violence have access to paid leave – please sign and share this petition! SEIU-West has also participated in a provincial consultation about interpersonal violence and the workplace – find out report here. This year our union was proudly the first union in Saskatchewan to offer a course on Domestic Violence and the Workplace – we will be offering this important course again in 2018.
In addition to these broad campaigns, SEIU-West also led campaigns based on specific workplace issues. Variety Place, a group home in the community-based organization sector, locked out our members for 11 weeks in Outlook. Not only was this lockout difficult for our members, but also for the people they care for. In response to this lockout, SEIU-West created a campaign page and launched a letter campaign to the Board of Directors at Variety Place. Hundreds of letters were sent, and many pamphlets and posters were shared with the Outlook community. Solidarity pickets and rallies brought allies from across Saskatchewan to Outlook, and videos of our members sharing their concerns gained much attention online. Locked out workers demonstrated their generosity and care when they held a number of community BBQs where all proceeds went to the local food bank. Due to public pressure and our strong bargaining team, our members were welcomed back to work an improved collective agreement.
In relation to collective agreements and TC, TC has played a large role in the bargaining climate this year – and we currently have the largest portion of our membership bargaining with SAHO.
Due to the ‘suggested’ rollback from government of 3.5% for all public sector workers, SAHO has come to the table with a menu of rollbacks for our members. But due to public pressure and member engagement, we are beginning to see the tide turn. Just recently, the Minister of Finance announced there would be no rollback this year – but we need to keep pushing so there’s no rollback any year.
The SEIU-West bargaining team with SAHO has been delivering the following message from members: NO Cuts, NO Rollbacks, Pay Us What We’re Worth! Treat Us With Respect! In order for their message to resonate, members must keep calling, writing, emailing and meeting with their MLA in order to let them know their mandate of rollbacks must change.
The SEIU-West ProCats have been busy across the province as they work to get members engaged with the health care bargaining process with SAHO as well.
First off, what’s a ProCat? ProCats (Provincial Contract Action Team) are SEIU-West health care members throughout the province; they are organizing meetings within each of our units and informing members about how bargaining is going. The ProCats assist all health care members to stay up to date with the bargaining process. Essentially, the ProCats are building a communication structure to get the information related to bargaining straight into members’ hands. ProCats are also involved in initiatives such as getting members signed up to meet their MLAs. They are hoping to recruit added UCats when it comes time for action events related to bargaining, such as Purple Days.
What’s a UCat? (Unit Contract Team) are leaders in facilities that are working with ProCats to pick a good time and location to hold meetings to talk to members about bargaining with SAHO. UCats inform members of the meetings, sign them up for updates through ProCat cards, and spread the word on bargaining at their work sites.
What have they accomplished?
They have visited approximately 80 worksites to talk to members about bargaining. They now have 610 contacts to text health care members and 2,431 healthcare email addresses to email bargaining updates to. They have hosted BBQs and engaged in many meaningful discussions. They also purpled the worksites by handing out SEIU-West swag! Members agree that 3.5% reduction offer is an insult. Members tell us that they are frustrated that the government and employer would even offer this to our membership. Our members are ready to create change.
SEIU-West has 12 health care sites that have not yet received a visit from the ProCats. Round two begins in 2018. If you’d like to schedule a visit by the ProCats, or if you would like to be a UCat for your facility, please contact us!
There has been many other bargaining sessions this year as well, including SEIU-West members at the Potters Inc. facility in Moose Jaw who ratified a new collective agreement that included annual pay increases of 2.25, 2.25, 2.25, 2.6, and 2.6 percent. Our newest SEIU-West members at Caleb Village ratified their first contract and the bargaining committee did exceptionally well – members saw their wages increase by as much as 22%.
The Town of Leader reached a 3 year deal with 2.5% in each year plus some improvements to working conditions. Wynyard CARRES achieved a first agreement after two years of bargaining. There was a 2% wage increase, employer paid benefits and substantial improvements to working conditions. Cheshire Homes of Saskatoon ratified a collective agreement after 3 years of bargaining with wage increases in all 4 years of the agreement and improvements to working conditions. It certainly pays to be purple!
There were also successful wage reopener negotiations in YWCA (2.5% 2017-18) and Prince Albert Group Homes.
Holy Family School Division, Chinook School Division, Southeast Cornerstone School Division and the Town of Assiniboia also bargained this year as well as the Sask Impaired Divers Treatment Centre, Elmwood Group Homes, and Canadian Blood Services. SEIU-West is currently in bargaining at Metis Addictions Council of Saskatchewan and West Central Abilities.
SEIU-West also introduced a new ‘Win of the Week’ section on our website where we celebrate our union’s victories, often demonstrated through collective bargaining.
Conferences & Education
Engaging members through training sessions and conferences is a priority for SEIU-West, and that’s why we’ve offered many different opportunities to get involved. Some of our committees organize conferences, such as the annual Young Workers Conference – another great success this year! The SEIU-West Worker Safety Committee also hosted a Worker Safety Conference only this year, it was expanded to 2 days! The Nursing Care Committee held their awesome Continuing Care Assistant (CCA) Conference this year as well. Our biggest conference of the year was our SEIU-West bi-annual convention, at which were proud to re-elect Barb Cape as our President!
In terms of our excellent education program, we held several trainings for Complete Stewards in Action throughout the province, and took that course to the next level with Advanced Leadership training. We also offered a technical course about Attendance Management and the Duty to Accommodate which members found highly valuable. Our unit leaders were offered Unit Leadership training and we also offered Unionism in Practice this year where members learned more about the important work of unions in the workplace and the community. As mentioned, SEIU-West was the first Saskatchewan union to offer Domestic Violence Workshops this year as well.
SEIU-West members are also given opportunities to attend other organizational conferences and educationals, such as the annual SFL Convention, the SFL Occupational Health and Safety Conference, the SFL Young Worker Conference and Summit, SFL Spring School, SALPN Education Conference, Prairie School for Union Women, and the United Way Wicihitowin Aboriginal Engagement Conference.
Advertisements & In the News
SEIU-West loves to share the good work of our members, and advertising is one great way to demonstrate their skills and qualities!
Based on TC and the concerns of our members, we aired two new TV commercials under the theme of games that was developed by members at our 2016 Bargaining Conference. We aired one related to health care, and another to joining our union. We also aired our 2017 Holiday Greeting on CTV!
Our billboards continue to gain notice throughout the province – purple is a hard colour to miss! Our merchandise options have expanded this year as well: members can promote purple with our new lumberjack hats, rocket-shine water bottles, button down shirts, buffies/headbands, luggage, and boo-boo pouches!
SEIU-West ensures our union is promoted online, on print, and on radio too. You can often spot us in the Star Phoenix, the Moose Jaw Express, the SouthWest Booster, on Outlook’s digital screen, and more! We are also featured on the radio during Rider games, and have joined Cruz FM!
Last year we began sponsoring the Festival of Trees (proceeds go to local hospitals) and it was such a success we sponsored again this year! We were super proud of our excellent decorating team from Royal University Hospital who did a wonderful job demonstrating our tree’s title, ‘The Sound of Purple’. We donated awesome silent auction items to the Moose Jaw Festival of Trees, such as gift certificates for temple garden spa. This year we also expanded our support to the Swift Current annual Lighting Ceremony where we sponsored a horse-drawn carriage!
SEIU-West members have worked hard to submit letters for publishing in local newspapers as well – members like members like Martin, Esther, Lois, and Judy have written excellent letters to the editors on issues like public health care and austerity. These letters and news stories about SEIU-West members are being added to the ‘SEIU-West in the News’ webpage. If you are an SEIU-West member who would like to write an op-ed or a letter to the editor, use our comprehensive toolkit that includes fact sheets and writing tips. You can also contact the Political Action and Education Department and they will support you through the process. Our media releases and your elected leaders are also featured in major media publications as well – again, these articles are often posted in our SEIU-West in the News section.
At SEIU-West, we take care that everything we do, from member engagement to collective bargaining to political advocacy, is supported by the latest and best information. We gather and prepare information to educate our members about issues affecting them and their communities. We also use information to educate, persuade, and pressure employers and politicians about our members: their dedication, the vital work they do, and the challenges they face.
Some of the highlights of our research this year:
- In SEIU-West’s submission to the K-12 Education Advisory Panel we effectively discussed the value of elected school trustees and investment in public education;
- In our submission to the Minister of Labour Relations & Workplace Safety’s consultation process on interpersonal violence and the impact in the workplace., we outlined the need for improved workplace safety and secure funding for those agencies who provide necessary community supports for victims of domestic violence;
- In our submission on the governance and appeals processes of the Workers’ Compensation Board, we insisted that any changes in WCB structures or processes must smooth the injured worker’s access to much needed benefits, by ensuring that the appeal process is as comprehensible and timely as possible.
- In our submission to the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Stakeholder Consultation we called for lower ambulance fees and better wages and working conditions for rural EMS employees.
- In our submission to the Transition Team Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Working Group we told the Ministry of Health what we think laboratory and pathology services should look like when the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is up and running. The bottom line: workload pressures and short-staffing in the lab/path sector have reached critical levels, and need to be addressed in a way that preserves the public nature of our health care system.
- SEIU-West provided feedback on the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association (SRNA) Standards and Competencies for the RN with Additional Authorized practice. We stated that nursing care delivery models must be based on the principles of collaboration, mutual respect, and the exchange of knowledge among members of the health care team.
- We prepared ‘Grading Our Governments’ presentations to raise members’ awareness about whether our elected governments are appropriately addressing issues such as public health care, child care, climate change, and inequality.
- In support of collective bargaining, we tracked down ownership and financial information about employers.
Our SEIU-West Committees demonstrate what it means to be engaged. Along with their conferences, our committee demonstrate a high level of activity. The Education Committee awarded 20 scholarships for SEIU-West members and their children; the Political Action and Awareness Committee were present at many rallies and at the legislature during important announcements; the Worker Safety Committee continues to share their Stand for Safety tips; the Nursing Care Committee‘s has sponsored members to attend the SALPN conference and held a Nursing Week Promotion; the Aboriginal Committee supplied the Truth and Reconciliation’s 94 Calls to Action booklets at both convention and the Young Workers Conference; the Young Workers Committee made strides in spreading awareness about domestic violence with their paper and online petition; and the Member Organizing Committee has been busy finding new workplaces to organize!
While this might seem a long review of 2017, there was still so much more to write about the level of engagement we’ve seen from SEIU-West members this year. We hope you appreciated reading about our 2017, and we can’t wait to see what our union will do in 2o18!