CUPE Local 5430 rallies in Regina for healthcare workers

Cost of living and retention concerns were on the minds of members of Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 5430 who staged a noon hour rally outside Pasqua Hospital on Friday.

The union held this “information rally” to raise awareness of issues facing health care workers as they continue bargaining efforts towards a collective agreement. 

One of those health workers Victor Castro, a continuing care assistant at Wascana Rehabilitation Centre, said they were gathered to “make the employer realize that we’re suffering.”

“We need (a) better wage, we need better recognition. The cost of living is so high that some of us have three jobs you know, this regular full-time job doesn’t really suffice to the expenses that we have now… Things are just getting higher and more expensive and we can’t do nothing about that.”

CUPE 5430 President Bashir Jalloh said the union is currently at the bargaining table with the province. “But the bargaining is excruciatingly painful,” he said.

“It’s extremely painful that our employer is focused on rewriting our collective agreement. They are focused on things that are not relevant, and we proposed a package to them that would deal with recruitment and retention and also to deal with some of the challenges that we had in the pandemic to deal with them. So we are asking them to come to the table with a meaningful determination to include and improve the wages and working conditions of our members.”

Jalloh said the union had started bargaining back in September, but members are “getting frustrated.”

He said CUPE is looking for a significant wage increase for healthcare workers, noting that wages have been stagnant, and they were also looking to address working conditions and staffing.

“The staffing situation is abysmal in this province. That’s why you see a lot of these facilities are on bypass, they are shut down.” He pointed out that the acute care services at Broadview Hospital have been shut for over one year.

He also pointed to the investment in the new Regina Urgent Care Centre that recently completed construction, but said “the problem we are having is staffing.”

“We have told them what you can do to keep people here is to improve retention. When you improve retention, people will come to Saskatchewan and work in Saskatchewan.”

Jalloh also decried the health care dollars that are “going to privatization,” criticizing money going to private contractors and going to Alberta to pay for private services instead of to health care workers at home.

“It does not make sense. If you’re going to enhance the invest in healthcare, invest that money to the frontline healthcare workers, not to private contractors.”

CUPE 5430 represents around 14,000 health service providers working for Saskatchewan Health Authority and affiliates in clerical, technical, nursing, support, and plant operations roles.

This rally outside Pasqua Hospital is the fourth of a series of information rallies around the province, with others having taken place recently at Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert, Weyburn General Hospital, and at Battlefords Union Hospital. There are also plans for upcoming rallies in Broadview and Yorkton.

Jalloh said the union plans another meeting next week with the Minister of Health and plan to pressure the government on their issues through the summer. If they are not successful, Jalloh said they plan to reassess their next strategy by the end of summer.

NDP Opposition Critic for Rural and Remote Health Jared Clarke was there and said “healthcare workers of Saskatchewan shouldn’t have to come and rally outside of the hospital to be heard by the government.”

“You know it’s only fair that healthcare workers get to bargain in good faith with the government, that the government shows them respect and listens to the concerns that they’re bringing forward. Time and again from the Sask Party government, we hear that they meet with healthcare workers, that they meet with people around the province, but they have yet to prove that they are actually listening to those workers, to those people.”

The Ministry of Health has issued a statement in relation to Friday’s rally. They pointed to their own efforts at hiring more than 1,000 nursing grads since 2022, filling 223 of the 250 new and enhanced permanent full-time positions in nine high-priority occupations to stabilize staffing in rural and remote areas, recruitment of 278 physicians from out of province and an additional 212 from within, and hiring 305 positions under the Rural and Remote Recruitment Incentive.

“The provincial government remains committed to building and supporting a sustainable and responsive health system today and into the future. A key priority for the Ministry of Health is to deliver the highest quality health care to Saskatchewan patients with our partners and service providers. We are investing $142 million in this year’s budget to support the Health Human Resources (HHR) Action Plan to recruit, train, and retain health-care workers…

“The Government of Saskatchewan is aware of the issues being raised by CUPE. However, contract negotiations are currently underway and it would be inappropriate to comment on the bargaining process.”

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