Official opposition pushes for expanded ‘hero pay’; party leaders comment on Evraz layoffs

The Saskatchewan NDP has joined health care unions and the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour in calling for an expanded “hero pay” program for all frontline health care workers.

Opposition Leader Ryan Meili said on Thursday morning that an extension into the second phase of the Saskatchewan Temporary Wage Supplement Program is needed since “hero pay” only supports workers in long-term care and personal care home facilities impacted by visitations suspensions from November.

Meili said there are several types of health care workers outside of long-term care that deserve the temporary wage top-up.

“We have folks in critical care, ICUs, paramedics and everybody else that are under added stress working hard and putting themselves on the line for us in the middle of this pandemic,” stated Meili. “They deserve that support, too.”

In a note from the NDP, it mentions how Saskatchewan was eligible for more than $106 million from the federal government for wage increases for essential workers, but documents show nearly half was left on the table.

In response, Premier Scott Moe said they have provided “hero pay” to everywhere it is applicable. He added how all health care workers have done a remarkable job during the pandemic, but never clearly said they would expand the program.

Moe, Meili ‘greatly concerned’ by Evraz layoffs

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe. (Photo: Moises Canales/620 CKRM)

Premier Moe described Thursday’s layoffs at Evraz in Regina as “devastating” and “absolutely terrible” when speaking to reporters at the legislature rotunda.

Since the government received news of the lost jobs, Moe said the government has stepped up to offer help for the affected workers.

“We’ve offered the supports of our rapid response teams to help work through any applications or supports that may ultimately be available,” explained the premier. “We’ll be reaching out as well to continue with the support for this industry and the industry that it serves.”

Moe added that his government will make efforts to support opportunities to get laid off employees back to work as soon as possible. He continued by saying it’s unfortunate this will impact workers and families during the pandemic and right before the holidays.

Meili hopes the response teams will “be more than just a few phone calls” and that the government will provide active financial support.

The NDP leader mentioned how this is a complete failure by the provincial government and that Premier Moe should have used Saskatchewan steel in replacement lines for SaskEnergy to help avoid this situation.

“[Moe] didn’t even work this summer to try and make sure it was Canadian steel in that northern Alberta line and he just let it go ahead with steel coming in from out of the country,” suggested Meili. “He should still be pushing TC Energy and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney to make sure that line gets built with Canadian steel.”

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