Workers and reps call for government accountability delivering promised funding

A group of community based workers and their supporting unions are asking the public to empower their quest to find answers surrounding the delivery of promised additional government funding.

Two and a half years ago, the Government of Saskatchewan announced a $17.34 million injection into its community based organizations to be accessed by the province’s most vulnerable people and the workers who serve them.

“We were all very excited when the province delivered the news of the much-needed funding back in December of 2012,” recalls front-line worker, Daryl Firth, a crisis worker at Regina Mobile Crisis Services.

Since then, community based organizations across the province have been calling on their union representatives to help them access the funding and get answers to exactly where the money is being spent.

“There is just so much confusion and unanswered questions around this funding,” says Kathy Cook, member of the tri-union committee representing some 70 CBOs across the province. “We have been inundated since that announcement about how our workers and facilities can actually access the resources. We have made countless calls and exhausted a thorough letter-writing campaign just to get a chance to sit down with the government and get some solid, clear answers about how this money can benefit those for which it was intended. We just need some good solid communication with the government so we can take that direction to those we represent.”

The 2012 announcement represented a dangling carrot at a time when facilities and their care givers across the province were facing their most challenging times delivering service to the province’s most exposed people, says Cook.

“Across our community, people facing addictions struggles, mental health issues, domestic violence, troubled youth, people with disabilities and new Canadians trying to survive in a new country – these are the people who need support the most. We have workers operating in impossibly limited conditions trying to serve our most vulnerable so if this money is available, it shouldn’t take two and a half years just too properly get it to where it was intended.”

Three unions – the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees Union (SGEU), Service Employees International Union West (SEIU-West), and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) make up a committee of front-line workers and union reps designed to protect, enhance and advocate for the work of care deliverers in CBOs across the province. When announced, the funding was promised to address both low wages and needs for facility improvements.

“That money is needed right now more than ever,” says Firth who has worked as a front-line worker for 15 years and has also long served as an advocate for his counterparts across the province. “The workers we represent hover right around the line of the broadly accepted living-wage line, and often report their own need to work multiple extra shifts or take second jobs in some cases just to not drown in poverty. Our workers make far below the wages guaranteed for their public sector counterparts, and this funding would help address that inequality as well as the unacceptable appreciation and compensation we are giving for some of the most important work being done in our province. This funding would also help upgrade facilities, making them safer and more acceptable for both workers and clients.”

The committee is asking the public to get behind its support of CBO facilities and workers by showing support for better communication with the government and a delivery of the full funding promise.

“I know first-hand the people who do this kind of work every day do it because they feel called to do it,” says Firth. “They feel a deep inner pull to serving their community and fellow man. It’s what keeps me at it after 15 years and it’s what drives my counterparts who could be making a decent wage elsewhere doing less stressful work. Our hope today is to make that calling a little less onerous on these workers and on their families who often have to help fill in the gaps of log hours and low wages at home.”

Firth and other front line workers will be on hand for interviews on Saturday of the SGEU annual convention where they will call on support in their quest to meet with the government as well as have petitions supporting the ease of access to funding on hand.

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The following contacts will be on hand at SGEU’s annual convention today and can also be reached by telephone and email.

Kathryn Engel                                  Daryl Firth, Regina Mobile Crisis Unit
SGEU Communications officer        306.529.7584
306.550.1146                                   Kathy Cook, CBO committee member