Documents obtained by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) show that the Saskatchewan government is paying at least $730,000, and potentially more, for private staffing solutions in the health-care sector.
This is costing the government a lot of money and is negatively affecting morale in the public sector, the union says.
The numbers were disclosed to CUPE as part of its collective agreement and bargaining negotiations. Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) documents showed the start and end date of each contract, the contracting agency, the name of the contractor and the total cost of each contract.
The released documents covered only a part of the province, however. CUPE could confirm that in the North Battleford and Meadow Lake area alone, $732,000 was spent on licensed practical nurses in private contracting.
“There is no transparency, but if these are the numbers already revealed, God knows how much the government is spending in total,” Bashir Jalloh, president of CUPE, said.
According to Jalloh, the larger issue is that private contracts are undermining the public sector.
“There are two big issues here. First, the government is spending way more money on these contracts. A continuing-care assistant gets paid around a third more if they work for a private company. That leads to the second issue: the current public staff losing morale or leaving and switching to private contracts themselves.”
Jalloh said this is causing a lot of health-care workers to leave the province.
“The Saskatchewan government is very focused on recruitment. They are recruiting a lot of people, but we notice that many of those people are not staying in the province. We are asking the government to also start paying attention to the retention of our members.”
Paying higher wages and offering additional benefits, such as covering travel, accommodations and meal allowances, could help, said Jalloh.
“If the government can afford to pay private contractors, they can afford to invest in Saskatchewan workers. We need long-term solutions, not costly temporary band-aids.”
The Saskatchewan government said in a statement to Global News:
“The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) primarily utilizes contract staffing to help minimize service disruptions while recruitment is underway, and this includes a number of hard-to recruit positions in rural and remote locations. As vacancies (in the public sector, red.) are filled across the province, the SHA will phase out our reliance on contract staff.”