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Social service workers in Saskatchewan vote to take job action

CUPE Local 600 said 94 per cent of its members have voted to take job action as they seek better hours of work in contract talks. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Rachel Verbin

Social service workers in Saskatchewan have voted to take job action as contract talks continue with the provincial government.

CUPE Local 600 said Wednesday that 94 per cent of its members voted to take job action, which could include a full withdrawal of service.

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The main issue for the union is hours of work.

“Workload and caseload are increasing across the board and in every classification, and the current shift schedule [is] in crisis and planned respite homes is unsustainable,” said Jacalyn Luterbach, president of the local.

Luterbach said many employees are currently working six straight days of eight-hour shifts, and often two or three different shifts in a week and it is not only impacting working conditions, but their home life as well.

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“We are seeing increased sick time, increased reliance on overtime, and increased mandating by the employer,” Luterbach said.

“Members have also reported fatigue, health problems, and mood issues all from the lack of rest away from work.”

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CUPE has proposed moving from eight-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts, which it said is the standard throughout the health authority.

The union added moving to a 12-hour shift model would not cost the employer any extra money and could end up saving money with reduced overtime.

The other issue is wages and CUPE said it is seeking a cost of living increase.

In a statement, the Saskatchewan government said the following:

“We are aware of CUPE’s concerns and that they have a strike mandate from their members. The Government remains hopeful that an agreement can be reached at the bargaining table. We cannot comment on the details of negotiations with CUPE.”

The local will be in a strike position once until essential services negotiations take place, which the union said will take place in the near future.

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CUPE Local 600 represents roughly 385 workers in the Ministry of Social Services, Community Living Service Delivery, including staff at the Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford and at the former Valley View Centre in Moose Jaw.

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