Hello Everyone:

I appreciate your patience as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves. I’m grateful to those who continue to work on the front lines during this viral war — the value of the services you provide cannot be overestimated, especially during a crisis like this. You play a vital role in the lives of so many across Saskatchewan. Thank you.

Internally, SGEU is doing everything we can to flatten the curve and limit the spread of COVID-19. Meetings and gatherings have been cancelled or postponed. Personal contact with our staff has been limited as many are working from home and our offices are closed. However, staff can be reached by phone or email and are committed to providing the service you need.

The number of presumptive and confirmed COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan continues to rise and the premier announced that the province is officially in a state of emergency. The government has directed non-essential service employees to work from home, but that’s not enough — the people of our province need more!

SGEU is calling on the provincial government to provide paid leave to those who cannot afford to take time away from work. We recognize the vital importance of personal protective equipment and are unwavering in our position that the N-95 mask — recommended by the World Health Organization — and other appropriate equipment must be provided to all healthcare workers and first responders. It’s also imperative that protections be put in place for others who are required to continue working face-to-face with the public. We continue to call on Ministries, Agencies, Institutions, Community Based Organizations and private employers to make alternate arrangements to ensure the public is served but that our members are protected while providing those important services.

We are also concerned about the direction given by the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) to their health care employees, directing that the same rules for self-isolation by the public who have travelled out of country do not apply to health care workers who have returned home prior to March 16. This has the potential to put many people at risk including staff in the health care system and patients, clients and residents; we continue to seek clarity from the Employer.

The government has failed to address the unique considerations for certain types of workers — particularly those without job security, paid sick days, or other benefits, such as part-time, casual, or contract workers. SGEU demands that the government take action to ensure that no worker will lose their job or income as a result of taking measures to protect themselves, or because of temporary closures of their workplace.

Workers with compromised immune systems, pre-existing health conditions, or disabilities, as well as older workers, are at particular risk during public health emergencies. SGEU is insistent that the government ensures vulnerable workers are safe and able to take the precautions they need.

At the end of the day, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure their employees are protected. If you believe you are being asked to work under unsafe circumstances, please contact your supervisor and/or your Occupational Health and Safety Committee. If you have concerns or questions, please reach out to your local steward, or contact SGEU.

As this situation continues to unfold, we will be posting new information on our website and Facebook page — please stay tuned. Be sure to check our special COVID-19 information page on the SGEU website for updates.

During this confusing and critical time, I urge you to continue following safe personal hygiene recommendations, practice social distancing as much as possible, help your neighbours and those in need, and support local businesses as much as you can. We’re all in this together.

In solidarity,

Bob Bymoen

*Symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, and generally feeling unwell. Use this self-assessment tool to determine if you should be tested for COVID-19.