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Contract talks between CUPE and the Saskatchewan government break down

CUPE Local 600, which represents social service workers in the province, said talks halted after the Saskatchewan government walked away from the bargaining table. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Rachel Verbin

Talks between the union representing social service workers in Saskatchewan and the government have broken down.

CUPE Local 600 said Tuesday that talks halted after the government walked away from the table.

READ MORE: Social service workers in Saskatchewan vote to take job action

“The government of Saskatchewan has stated repeatedly that they want Saskatchewan to be the best place to live for persons with disabilities. But the lack of respect for front line workers is shocking,” Nancy Seman, president of CUPE Local 600, said in a release.

“We are urging the government to take bargaining seriously and work with us to find a solution to address the health and safety issues we are facing.”

The Saskatchewan government said it “respects the collective bargaining process and remains confident that a negotiated settlement can be reached.”

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Work-life balance and burnout are significant issues for members, Seman said.

“The government of Saskatchewan is not taking our health and safety concerns seriously,” she said.

“They are refusing to consider changes to the schedule model that is pushing our members in crisis and planned respite homes towards burnout.”

READ MORE: Unifor announces ‘informal meeting’ with refinery reps in Saskatoon

Seman said the union reached out to Tammy Kirkland, the deputy minister of social services to discuss the burnout problem in the workplace, but Seman said Kirkland refused to meet with them.

The union said the wage offer made by the government is less than what other unions received and “less than what out-of-scope managers received.”

CUPE said they are not yet in a legal strike position, but are close on reaching an essential services agreement.

“We will continue to try to reach a deal at the bargaining table, but we are exploring all additional avenues we have at our disposal, up to and including job action,” Seman said.

CUPE said last fall that 94 per cent of its members voted in favour of job action, including a full withdrawal of services.

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The union represents roughly 380 workers at the Community Living Service Delivery branch of the Ministry of Social Services and the Ministry of Central Services.

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