Saskatchewan Federation of Labour https://sfl.sk.ca The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) represents over 100,000 working women and men across the province. We are the voice of workers, but strive to improve the lives of all people. We support the principles of social unionism and struggle for social and economic justice for all. en Tue, 04 Oct 2022 15:35:29 -0700 Tue, 04 Oct 2022 15:35:29 -0700 Minimum wage increase not enough, workers need bigger raises to match skyrocketing inflation https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/minimum-wage-increase-not-enough-workers-need-bigger-raises-to-match-skyrocketing-inflation Thu, 29 Sep 2022 08:46:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/minimum-wage-increase-not-enough-workers-need-bigger-raises-to-match-skyrocketing-inflation

Province must immediately increase minimum wage to $15: SFL

While the minimum wage will officially increase to $13 an hour in Saskatchewan this Saturday, workers in the province are seeing their wages eaten away by skyrocketing inflation, and the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour is calling on the government to fast track their plans and immediately increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“While this is the first time the minimum wage has increased by more than a few cents in this province in quite some time, unfortunately, due to inflation and the rising cost of living, it does not go far enough to help minimum wage workers who are working multiple jobs and still struggling to get by,” said SFL President Lori Johb. “We are calling on the government to implement a $15 an hour minimum wage now instead of in 2024. Workers can’t afford to wait.”

Johb pointed to a report published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives earlier this year that calculated the living wage for workers at $16.23 per hour in Regina and $16.89 per hour in Saskatoon.

“Even when the minimum wage is eventually raised to $15 an hour, it still won’t be enough for workers to make ends meet in the province’s two major cities,” Johb said. “The government must raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour now, and then come up with a plan to match the minimum wage to the cost of living. Workers shouldn’t have to work multiple jobs just to be able to scrape by. Workers deserve regular, meaningful raises that will provide relief from inflation and make their lives easier.”

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SFL launches petition, renews call to make September 30th a provincial holiday https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/sfl-launches-petition-renews-call-to-make-september-30th-a-provincial-holiday Thu, 15 Sep 2022 09:56:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/sfl-launches-petition-renews-call-to-make-september-30th-a-provincial-holiday

The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour is launching a petition and renewing its call on the provincial government to honour the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30th a provincial statutory holiday.

“The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is an opportunity for all of us to reflect upon the tragedy of the residential school system, to honour the victims and survivors of residential schools, and recognize the trauma it continues to inflict upon families and communities, as well as to commit to true and meaningful reconciliation,” said SFL president Lori Johb. We encourage all workers and community members to sign onto our petition and call on the government to honour the TRC and make September 30 a provincial statutory holiday.”

Passed by the Federal Government in 2020 after being outlined as a call to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report, September 30 is recognized as a statutory holiday for all federally regulated employees. Several provinces and many provincial organizations will recognize the holiday, but the Sask. Party government has again said that they have no plans to legislate September 30th as a provincial statutory holiday for all workers.

“The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is an important day for workers to be able to take the opportunity to learn, quietly reflect, or participate in reconciliation events in their communities,” Johb said. “The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour is committed to reconciliation and justice for Indigenous peoples. The provincial government must recognize the role they play in reconciliation and the importance of this day, and legislate September 30th as a provincial holiday.”

The petition can be signed at https://sfl.sk.ca/take-action/petitions/sept30

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OH&S in Saskatchewan: Reflecting on 50 years https://sfl.sk.ca/news/oh-s-in-saskatchewan-reflecting-on-50-years Tue, 13 Sep 2022 10:29:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/oh-s-in-saskatchewan-reflecting-on-50-years

The creation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in 1972 was the government’s first well-intentioned attempt at developing workplace health and safety legislation. The SFL criticized this legislation, identifying a series of inadequacies that prompted the government to rethink it. The Department of Labour agreed to revise the new act and deal with the deficiencies identified by labour. What the labour movement was looking for was a plan based on the principle of prevention. Rather than simply paying people when they became ill or were injured or killed on the job, they envisioned a plan that would keep people from being hurt in the first place. At the time, sections of the business community argued that workers were inherently careless and this was the primary cause of workplace illness and injury. Saskatchewan’s Department of Labour rejected this idea, assuming instead that accidents were related to inherently hazardous workplaces.

The new plan sought to reform unsafe work environments in order to reduce worker illness and injuries, and its provisions were enforced by regulations and inspections. Of course, small steps had begun to improve workplace safety as far back as the days of Walter Scott, such as regulations that required employers to provide safe scaffolding on construction projects. There were inspectors for elevators, SaskPower had gas inspectors, and the turmoil in the coal fields had produced efforts at ensuring mine safety through inspections. But the legislation being considered was much broader in scope than any of the measures that had come before it. If successful, the health and safety of working people in the province would be measurably improved and overall health care costs and compensation claims would be reduced.

And Saskatchewan had a long way to go. The province had the unfortunate distinction of being a national leader in the number of workers per capita killed or injured on the job. Unfortunately, the good intentions of the Department of Labour in the 1970s failed to produce a long-lasting reduction in serious injuries. As subsequent events would demonstrate, however, this had more to do with a lack of enforcement by subsequent administrations than it did with the quality of the legislation developed in the 1970s. Saskatchewan continues to lead the nation in workplace-related deaths and injuries. Every year, 25-40 working people lose their lives in industrial accidents in the province.

In a 2004 interview, long-time Labour civil servant Bob Sass claimed the initial push behind the creation of the provincial occupational health and safety legislation came from international unions like the Steelworkers: “The United States had created an Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) in 1971, and people who belonged to international unions were reading about it in their union papers and hearing about it from their brothers and sisters in the U.S. They were understandably interested in having the NDP government in Saskatchewan take a look at the U.S. system to see if it could be put in place here.”

According to Sass, Walter Smishek played an important role in getting the government to move forward on occupational health: “The Department of Health already had an occupational safety unit, but it was barely staffed and had a very limited mandate. John Richards, a former U of S Professor and MLA, had been helping Smishek launch a series of probes into new areas to explore for improving health care and some of the initial thinking came from his work.” The decision was eventually made to move responsibility for occupational health and safety to the Department of Labour.

As the task of improving the 1972 Occupational Health and Safety Act proceeded, Bob Sass welcomed the contribution of prominent Saskatchewan labour activists and environmentalists. According to Sass, no one was more influential in this regard than the SFL President at the time, Ross Hale, and former SFL President Bill Gilbey. As head of the Grain Services Union, Gilbey advanced the health and safety interests of his membership, especially with respect to grain dust in elevators, linking it to lung conditions faced by the farmer/owners of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool.

According to Sass, “Gilbey’s interest in occupational health was karate-like. It was focused and concentrated. He had a large influence on my early development and thinking on the subject.”
Sass began his study of OH&S issues by talking with the union people in the United States, including the United Steelworkers of America’s health and safety people in Pittsburgh. He discovered the American trade unionists weren’t entirely enamoured with their new legislation. It seemed that a lot of the motivation behind OHSA legislation was the desire of governments and big business to come up with a way to head off litigation by both workers and environmentalists. One of the biggest failings of the US law was that it relied heavily on the role of scientists and experts to determine what was safe and unsafe.

A unique Saskatchewan solution was developed which emphasized three fundamental rights, and formed a foundation for the province’s revised “Sass Version” of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in 1974. First, regulations were put in place to uphold workers’ rights to be informed of potential hazards. Second, workers were given the right to participate in joint labour-management Occupational Health and Safety Committees to ensure workplace safety. Third - and by far the most revolutionary addition to the plan - workers were given the right to refuse unsafe work without fear of reprisal. This right was based on workers’ perceptions of what was harmful to their well-being, even without supporting data and expert studies. Workers didn’t have to go to the library, read up, and submit a paper before getting themselves out of potentially unsafe circumstances.

Sass maintains “That right came specifically from the labour movement, in particular from SFL president Ross Hale. I had discussions with Ross about my concerns over the dominance of employer-sponsored expert data under the American system. Ross took the view that if you had to debate the literature about whether or not something caused disease it could go on forever. To make OH&S meaningful ,he believed we needed something like the strike. Without the strike, collective bargaining would be a never-ending debate. To Ross’s mind the right to refuse unsafe work would be to OH&S what the strike is to collective bargaining.”

The evolving legislation eventually contained additional provisions and regulations to help ensure safer work environments. For example, asbestos was declared to be a harmful substance for the first time anywhere in North America. The new rules maintained that there was no safe limit for known carcinogens. If a workplace was seen to be particularly dangerous, the Minister could place it under medical supervision. Doctors were required to provide reports to the Department of Labour’s new chief medical health officer in regard to people who became injured or ill on the job.

Additional efforts were made to make workplace environments more worker-friendly and reduce fatigue. A measure was put in place that stipulated that work could be done from a sitting position as opposed to standing, should be done sitting down. Sass remembers that this was one provision that drew the ire of employers. Department store managers had difficulty accepting the premise that sales clerks should not have to stand behind jewelry or cosmetic counters every minute of the day, putting up with unnecessary strain on their feet, legs, and back. Bosses argued that the clerks needed to be up on their feet and smiling, giving the appearance of being alert, eager and ready to serve customers. Fifty years ago, employees could still be disciplined for sitting down and doing their job effectively, and in some workplaces, including some of the provincial government’s own typing pools, talking was prohibited unless it was directly work-related. Management used school bells in government workplaces right up until the early 1970s that let the “girls” know when they could look up from their typewriters, speak, or go to the washroom. It took OH&S legislation, strong unions, and the liberal, anti-establishment attitudes of the 1970s to creates less dehumanizing workplaces. By the end of the decade, workers didn’t have to put up with foremen watching them drop their pants and timing them while they sat on the toilet. It was no longer acceptable to operate Saskatchewan workplaces like combination sweatshops and primary school classrooms.

Finally, to give OH&S legislation life, people were hired to administer it. Inspectors were sent into the field to investigate workplace safety, and they had the force of fines and penalties backing them up to ensure compliance.

The OH&S legislation met with limited public and employer resistance. In Sass’s estimation, this was in part because people were encouraged to view occupational health and safety as a health issue. Health had been a major battleground in the 1971 provincial election campaign, and not many employers or opposition members in the legislature had the will to challenge the NDP government on health issues.

“What the labour movement was looking for was a plan based on the principal of prevention ...they envisioned a plan that would keep people from being hurt in the first place.”

“The new plan sought to reform unsafe work environments in order to reduce worker illness and injuries.”

“A unique Saskatchewan solution was developed which emphasized three fundamental rights...”

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Rebates for workers a short-term solution to a long-term affordability crisis: SFL https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/rebates-for-workers-a-short-term-solution-to-a-long-term-affordability-crisis-sfl Tue, 23 Aug 2022 09:51:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/rebates-for-workers-a-short-term-solution-to-a-long-term-affordability-crisis-sfl

While the announcement of a government rebate is welcome news to the working people of Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour continues to demand that the government take immediate measures that will address the affordability crisis faced by workers across the province who are struggling to make ends meet due to the rising cost of living thanks to Sask. Party tax and utility rate hikes and high fuel prices.

“Today’s financial update proves what we’ve known for months- that the government has been hoarding record resource revenues while at the same time raising taxes and utility rates at the expense of working people,” said SFL President Lori Johb. “The SFL has been calling on the government to provide relief to working people for months, and while the announcement of a $500 rebate for Saskatchewan workers will help provide relief in the short term, it’s too little and too late. Many workers have already spent well over $500 due to tax hikes and inflation, and they need the government to come up with a plan that will lower the cost of living for the long term well after their rebate cheques have been spent.”

Johb continued to call on the government to take additional measures to help workers address the inflation and affordability crisis, including:

  • Immediately increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and come up with a plan to introduce a living wage
  • Scrapping planned PST hikes passed in the 2022 provincial budget and cancel proposed power rate hikes
  • Providing relief from high fuel prices
  • Taxing profits from companies experiencing record revenues from high resource prices

Johb also called on the government to use the record revenues generated by an unprecedented increase in resource royalties to invest in public healthcare and education, and scrap their plans to privatize healthcare.

“It’s unconscionable that, in a time when the province is facing record revenues and a balanced budget, the Sask. Party government is continuing to underfund public education, and are moving forward with plans to privatize healthcare- including sending patients out of province for private surgeries while hospitals across the province are being shut down due to lack of staff. The government must use this unprecedented cash windfall to invest in our public healthcare and education systems- today’s update makes it clear that there is no excuse for privatization and cuts.”

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Enough is Enough- Workers send Moe and the Sask Party a message at Saskatoon cabinet office https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/enough-is-enough-workers-send-moe-and-the-sask-party-a-message-at-saskatoon-cabinet-office Fri, 19 Aug 2022 09:29:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/enough-is-enough-workers-send-moe-and-the-sask-party-a-message-at-saskatoon-cabinet-office

Today, workers gathered in front of the government cabinet office in Saskatoon to send Scott Moe and the Sask. Party a message that workers have had enough of their government’s inaction.

“It’s been a hard summer for workers all across the province,” said SFL President Lori Johb. “Inflation has driven up the cost of living and working people and their families are struggling to make ends meet. The Sask. Party’s solution has been to do nothing, in fact, they made the situation even worse by raising taxes and hiking power rates. Workers have seen just how little the Sask. Party cares about making their lives more affordable, and they are fed up.”

Johb pointed to the health care crisis as another area where the Sask. Party is failing.

“We’re facing a critical staffing crisis in healthcare- workers are burnt out and hospitals are overwhelmed and being shut down across the province due to short staffing. The Sask. Party’s solution has been to ignore the problem, and make the situation even worse by taking resources away from the health system by looking at privatization as a way out of the mess they created in healthcare over the course of the pandemic.”

Johb also noted the cuts made to education and the fact that school boards are struggling to balance their budgets while the government continues to fund private schools, including Legacy Christian Academy, which is facing shocking allegations of abuse.

“The Sask. Party is making cuts in our schools and taking resources away from the public system and into private schools while our public schools are understaffed. The fact that Legacy Christian Academy is set to receive hundreds of thousands of tax dollars in funding this year despite investigations into their abuse of students while public school boards make cuts to balance their budgets is shameful.”

Johb said that the SFL and provincial labour movement will be working in the upcoming byelection to elect an NDP MLA that will hold the Sask. Party to account in the upcoming byelection.

“Workers are demanding better from our government, and today’s message from workers is that they are tired of Moe and the Sask. Party’s inaction on so many issues and their ignoring of the problems working people in this province are facing,” said Johb.

“Saskatchewan’s labour movement will do everything we can to send Scott Moe and the Sask. Party a message by electing a progressive voice who will put workers first in the upcoming byelection, and work to elect a new government in two years who will actually listen to the concerns of working people.”

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Finance Minister’s $8K flight an insult to workers struggling to make ends meet: SFL https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/finance-ministers-8k-flight-an-insult-to-workers-struggling-to-make-ends-meet-sfl Mon, 18 Jul 2022 09:23:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/finance-ministers-8k-flight-an-insult-to-workers-struggling-to-make-ends-meet-sfl

Sask. Party Finance Minister Donna Harpauer’s $8,000 private flight to travel 400 kilometres is an insult to workers who are struggling to make ends meet due to record high inflation and tax and utility rate hikes, says the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour.

“It’s unbelievable that at a time when workers are finding themselves unable to put food on the table, or to fill their cars with gas just to be able to get to work, the Sask. Party has no issue booking private jets and sending Saskatchewan people the bill,” said SFL President Lori Johb. “The Finance Minister should pay back the cost of the flight and apologize to working people for being so arrogant and out of touch with reality.”

The SFL has been calling on the Sask. Party government all summer to provide workers with relief from inflation at a time when the province is experiencing record resource revenues while at the same time raising taxes and utility rates, including:

  • Immediately increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and come up with a plan to introduce a living wage
  • Scrapping planned PST hikes passed in the 2022 provincial budget and cancel proposed power rate hikes
  • Providing relief from high fuel prices
  • Taxing profits from companies experiencing record revenues from high resource prices, and provide PST rebates to Saskatchewan people

“Workers across the province are in desperate need of some financial relief, but the Sask. Party instead seems to be more focused on how they can use our money to benefit themselves,” said Johb. “Given that the Sask. Party sees no problem with flying around on private jets while raising taxes and utility rates, it doesn’t seem likely that workers will be seeing plans for relief from this government any time soon.”

The SFL has a petition calling on the government to provide workers with relief from inflation. It can be found at: https://www.puttingworkersfirst.ca/inflation_relief

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Saskatchewan workers need relief from inflation, high fuel prices: SFL https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/saskatchewan-workers-need-relief-from-inflation-high-fuel-prices-sfl Wed, 22 Jun 2022 09:45:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/saskatchewan-workers-need-relief-from-inflation-high-fuel-prices-sfl

Today, the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour is calling on the provincial government to come up with a plan to provide working people with financial relief from the skyrocketing prices of basic necessities due to inflation and high fuel prices.

“While the province is seeing a windfall from record resource revenues, Workers across the province are struggling to make ends meet,” said SFL President Lori Johb. “The government’s balance sheet might be looking good, but workers are struggling with their personal finances and are worried about how they will be able to afford groceries or put gas in their car.”

With inflation at it’s highest point in 40 years, and a recent survey showing a growing number of Saskatchewan workers are unable to pay their bills, taking on new debt and even selling off their personal possessions to make ends meet due to the rapidly rising cost of living, the SFL is calling on the province to take action to address affordability and provide workers with financial relief, including:

  • Immediately increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and come up with a plan to introduce a living wage in the province
  • Scrap planned PST hikes passed in the 2022 provincial budget and cancel proposed power rate hikes
  • Tax profits from companies experiencing record revenues from high resource prices, and provide PST rebates to Saskatchewan people

“It’s time for the Sask. Party to stop being so worried about balancing the budget for their own political gain and cancel their tax and utility hikes, said Johb. “Workers need relief, and this government needs to step up and take action."

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Saskatchewan Federation of Labour Recognizes National Indigenous Peoples Day https://sfl.sk.ca/news/saskatchewan-federation-of-labour-recognizes-national-indigenous-peoples-day Tue, 21 Jun 2022 09:22:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/saskatchewan-federation-of-labour-recognizes-national-indigenous-peoples-day

The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour is proud to recognize June 21 as National Indigenous Peoples Day, a day to celebrate the diverse traditions, languages, and history of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, and renew our continued commitment towards meaningful reconciliation.

Indigenous peoples in our province have been waiting for too long for actions from our provincial and federal governments. They have watched for years as reports and inquiries are met with inaction and are shelved away to collect dust. We must continue to come together to demand action and real reconciliation to address Canada’s centuries of colonialism and genocide that have done so much damage to Indigenous families and communities.

We must continue the work to demand justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and make sure that the recommendations in the inquiry report “Reclaiming Power and Place” are fully implemented. We must also make sure the calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation’s report are fully implemented. Too little progress has been made since the report was released. There are still too many systemic inequalities faced by indigenous peoples, and it’s time for all levels of government to take action and stop making excuses.

Canadians must also continue to come to terms with the horrifying legacy of residential schools. It has been nearly a year since the discovery of 751 unmarked graves at Cowessess First Nation, and thousands more have been discovered across the country since. People across the country must continue to recognize that the residential school system was a genocide of a massive scale- a legacy of generations of colonialism, violence, and systemic racism that is an ongoing trauma for families and communities. We must continue to demand justice, and to listen to Indigenous communities about how we can work towards healing the damage that has been done.

Finally, as a labour movement, we must take reconciliation seriously, and commit to implementing the TRC calls to action within our own unions, amplifying the voices of and standing up for Indigenous workers in our movement, and continuing the fight for justice for indigenous peoples.

Saskatchewan's labour movement is stronger as a result of its many Indigenous members, and the perspectives and experiences they bring to their unions. Today, we celebrate Indigenous peoples, and stand in solidarity in the continued fight for justice and reconciliation.

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Sask. Party denies paid sick leave for working people https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/sask-party-denies-paid-sick-leave-for-working-people Thu, 12 May 2022 11:57:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/sask-party-denies-paid-sick-leave-for-working-people

One year after a bill was first introduced in the legislature in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sask. Party has officially voted against providing paid sick leave for working people in the province.

“While the Sask. Party voting against paid sick leave is disappointing, it’s not surprising,” said SFL President Lori Johb. “Throughout the pandemic, the Sask. Party government has shown a total lack of respect for workers- from failing to provide proper PPE in workplaces, overwhelming our hospitals and forcing health care workers to work with unsafe staffing levels, to refusing to give wage top-ups to all front line workers. The Sask. Party voting against legislation for paid sick leave today is yet another blow to the working people in this province who have put their health and safety at risk to keep our province running throughout the pandemic.”

The bill, introduced by Saskatoon-University MLA and Critic for Labour Jennifer Bowes, would have ensured 10 days of permanent, paid sick leave for all workers in the province.

Despite the Sask. Party using their majority to vote down the legislation, Johb said Saskatchewan’s labour movement will continue to fight for paid sick leave for all workers.

“Too many workers in Saskatchewan don’t have access to paid sick leave and are faced with no choice but to either go to work sick or miss out on their paycheque,” said Johb. “Paid sick leave will go a long way towards ensuring safer and healthier workplaces and make life better for thousands of working people across the province. If the Sask. Party won’t support paid sick leave, then Saskatchewan’s labour movement will work to elect a government that will.”

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Minimum wage increases a victory for working people in Saskatchewan: SFL https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/minimum-wage-increases-a-victory-for-working-people-in-saskatchewan-sfl Tue, 03 May 2022 14:08:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/minimum-wage-increases-a-victory-for-working-people-in-saskatchewan-sfl

Today’s announcement of a substantial increase to the province’s minimum wage over the next two years is a victory for working people all across the province, says the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL).

“Todays announcement of minimum wage increases leading to $15 an hour by 2024 is a big win for workers, and a direct result of years of lobbying, campaigning, and political pressure from the SFL and our union affiliates,” said SFL President Lori Johb. “For years, workers have been told by their government, their employers, and powerful corporate lobby groups that they weren’t worth more than poverty wages. Today’s announcement proves that when workers use our collective power to demand better, we can get results. I am proud to be able to say that Saskatchewan’s labour movement has finally won the fight for 15.”

Johb said that today’s announcement will have an impact on both workers and the provincial economy.

“Workers and their families will have more money in their pockets and invest that money directly back into their communities. While businesses and large corporations have long warned that minimum wage increases would lead to higher prices and job losses, the success of other jurisdictions with higher minimum wages have proven that to not be the case. In fact, provinces that have already implemented $15 an hour minimum wages have seen higher economic growth than Saskatchewan.”

Johb noted the high rates of inflation and increased cost of living that workers are currently dealing with, and called on the government to implement a $15 an hour minimum wage immediately in order to make sure that workers are able to make ends meet.

“Workers shouldn’t have to wait two years for $15 an hour to be fully implemented,” Johb said. “At a time when so many are struggling to meet basic needs. Workers have deserved this minimum wage boost for a long time- they can’t afford to wait any longer.”

Johb also said that the labour movement will keep pushing for increases to the minimum wage to ensure that all workers in the province receive a living wage.

“People shouldn’t have to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet. The SFL and the provincial labour movement will keep fighting for fair wages for all workers that keep pace with the rising cost of living.”

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SFL marks Day of Mourning by calling for increased worker safety protections https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/sfl-marks-day-of-mourning-by-calling-for-increased-worker-safety-protections Thu, 28 Apr 2022 08:11:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/sfl-marks-day-of-mourning-by-calling-for-increased-worker-safety-protections

Today, workers across the province are gathering to mark the National Day of Mourning, a day to honour and remember workers who have died on the job or who have become seriously ill or injured.

“Today is a somber occasion as we remember the 31 Saskatchewan workers who died last year as a result of their work,” said SFL President Lori Johb. “We must honour these workers and demand justice and accountability to make sure that all workers come home safe at the end of the day.”

Once again, workers are recognizing those who have died as a result of contracting COVID-19 while at work. Johb said that the failure of the Sask. Party government to protect workers from the most serious public health crisis of a lifetime is a clear sign of their failure to take occupational health and safety seriously.

“Even before COVID-19, the Sask. Party failed to take improving worker safety seriously, and as a result, workplace injuries and workplace fatalities in the province are some of the highest in the country,” Johb said. “We will continue to fight to make sure that our government recognizes workplace health and safety as fundamental.”

The SFL continues to call for increased worker safety protections, including:

  • Paid sick time for all workers
  • Proper PPE for all workers
  • Safe staffing levels in health care, education and public services
  • Increased fines and accountability for employers who fail to keep workers safe

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Saskatchewan passing Occupational Health and Safety Legislation. The legislation was ground-breaking, and enshrined workers’ three rights into law- the right to know, the right to participate, and the right to refuse.

“This legislation, and these rights, have made workplaces in Saskatchewan and across the country safer, and has saved countless lives as a result,” said Johb. “Fifty years later, we must continue to work to improve on this legislation, and commit to keeping up the fight to protect workers under the law.”

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Sask. Party budget fails workers during a crucial moment https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/sask-party-budget-fails-workers-during-a-crucial-moment Wed, 23 Mar 2022 13:44:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/sask-party-budget-fails-workers-during-a-crucial-moment

Budget doesn’t address need for good jobs or provide relief for workers dealing with low wages and rising inflation says SFL President.

Today’s provincial budget released by the Sask. Party government gives little hope to workers who were looking for a serious plan focused on job creation and growing the economy. The budget also fails to address the reality that the province is still dealing with COVID-19 and the long-term effects the pandemic has had on the province, especially as healthcare, education and other public services continue to be overwhelmed and pushed to their breaking point.

“This budget was an opportunity to show working people a plan to create good jobs, as many workers have been struggling to find stable employment after losing their jobs due to the pandemic,” said SFL President Lori Johb. “A long term plan to create good jobs is desperately needed, but unfortunately this does not seem to be a priority for the government. Frontline workers were also looking for some relief, but sadly this budget offers little for healthcare, education and public service workers who have been working hard to continue to deliver vital services despite chronic short-staffing and insufficient funding.”

The budget also leaves behind working people who are dealing with low wages, rising inflation, and high fuel prices.

“Many workers, especially those who are making minimum wage- one of the lowest in Canada- are having trouble making ends meet as the cost of living continues to grow higher,” Johb said. “This budget offers nothing to the many workers who are struggling right now- in fact, they are actually adding PST to even more goods and services. A one time, $100 rebate on their car insurance doesn’t come close to what workers need right now.”

Other items missing from the provincial government that the SFL has long been calling for include:

  • A plan to implement paid sick leave for all workers
  • A plan to boost the economy by raising the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour
  • A plan to fill the hundreds of job vacancies created by the Federal government’s record investment in childcare
  • Investments to ensure safe staffing levels in healthcare, education and public services

“Saskatchewan is at a crucial moment as the pandemic hopefully finally comes to an end and we can look towards a recovery,” Johb said. “Now is the time to invest in workers, job creation and growing the economy. Unfortunately this budget misses the mark.”


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SFL recognizes World Water Day https://sfl.sk.ca/news/sfl-recognizes-world-water-day Tue, 22 Mar 2022 07:48:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/sfl-recognizes-world-water-day

March 22 is World Water Day.

At any given moment, there are more than 100 drinking water advisories in place for First Nations communities across Canada, with the vast majority of advisories occurring in Indigenous communities. There are currently seven boil water advisories in Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan, many of which have been in place for years with no end in sight.

A single drinking water advisory can mean as many as 5,000 people lack access to safe, clean drinking water. Seventy-three percent of First Nations' water systems are at high or medium risk of contamination.

While governments at every level, municipal, provincial, and federal, have pledged, promised, and campaigned on clean water for all, there has been only slight improvement since the first World Water Day in 1993.

Today is the day we recognize the significance of water as a resource while working to facilitate access to clean water for all – What could you do to support our friends and neighbours in Saskatchewan?

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Five things to watch for in the provincial budget https://sfl.sk.ca/news/five-things-to-watch-for-in-the-provincial-budget Fri, 18 Mar 2022 11:09:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/five-things-to-watch-for-in-the-provincial-budget

As the Sask. Party government prepares to present a provincial budget later in March, here are five things that Saskatchewan’s labour movement will be looking for:

1. Job Creation Plan - The province has suffered from record job losses and high unemployment as a result of the pandemic. As the province looks forward to a recovery from COVID-19, the provincial government must include budget funding for a plan to create good jobs for Saskatchewan workers across all sectors. So far, the Sask. Party has left workers who suffered job losses as a result of the pandemic behind and have done nothing to create good jobs for working people in the province.

2. Funding to Fix Long Term Care - The pandemic brought to light the crisis in long term care. Understaffing and outdated facilities led to a crisis that resulted in the deaths of many in long term care. Our seniors deserve better, and so do the workers who care for them. This year’s budget must include funding to fix long term care and provide safe staffing levels to ensure the health and safety of both those in long term care and long term care workers.

3. Investments to Improve Public Services - The pandemic has damaged the public services we all rely on, and the Sask. Party’s disastrous mismanagement of the pandemic has only made things worse. To move forward, Saskatchewan needs significant investment in our public services, particularly in healthcare and education, where frontline workers are burnt out from working around the clock through five waves of COVID-19. Even after the province has recovered, there is a significant need for immediate investment in our public services. Waitlists for surgeries are growing, rural hospitals are being forced to close due to short staffing, and teachers and education workers are not being provided with the tools they need to be kept safe at work. Significant investments in our public services - not privatization- must be made to fix the damage done by the Sask. Party’s pandemic mismanagement.

4. Paid Sick Leave for All Workers - Workers in Saskatchewan shouldn’t have to make the choice to either collect a paycheque and put food on the table or go to work sick. All workers deserve paid sick time, and legislation to ensure paid sick leave for all workers should be a part of the government’s budget and a priority in the spring legislative session.

5. Funding for Public Childcare Spaces- Last year, the province signed a historic agreement with the federal government that provided $41 million in federal funding to create 28,000 new childcare spaces and ensure $10-a-day childcare by 2025. This year’s budget should provide a clear path to increase the amount of public childcare spaces available in the province, and a plan to train and hire early learning and childcare workers on a fair wage grid. This investment in early learning and childcare is vital to the province’s recovery from COVID-19, and the federal funding provided to the province will significantly reduce the cost of childcare for families in Saskatchewan.

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Conservative premiers will bring in American-style health care if we don’t stop them, say labour federation presidents https://sfl.sk.ca/news/conservative-premiers-will-bring-in-american-style-health-care-if-we-dont-stop-them-say-labour-federation-presidents Wed, 16 Mar 2022 08:03:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/conservative-premiers-will-bring-in-american-style-health-care-if-we-dont-stop-them-say-labour-federation-presidents

Provincial labour federations join the plea to PM to invest and save Canada’s public health care

The presidents of provincial labour federations are putting pressure on the federal government to step up their contributions to public health care and protect Canada’s public system from Conservative right-wing provincial privatization schemes.

Through letters to Prime Minister Trudeau, on behalf of workers across their provinces, federation presidents call for improvements to the capacity of our publicly-funded and publicly-delivered health-care system. This comes in response to some provincial governments throwing open the door to private, for-profit health services – funneling public dollars into the pockets of private corporations and their shareholders by outsourcing medical procedures that will further burden the public system with more costly and complicated care requirements.

“Care workers have been dealing with the Sask. Party’s mismanagement of the pandemic for over two years, said SFL President Lori Johb. “They have been doing a phenomenal job under these circumstances, but are under immense pressure to deliver care with inadequate resources. The Sask. Party has already privatized parts of our health system that have done nothing to reduce wait times. More privatization will only drain resources away from the public system and make the situation care workers are facing even worse.”

We must recognize that the pandemic has highlighted several weaknesses in our care system. The solution to filling these gaps and shortcomings in our public system is sustainable, appropriate funding and better planning, not duplicating services in a private shadow system. Private clinics are in direct conflict with the pride that Canadians feel when we talk about our universal, quality public health-care system.

“Our public health system is world class, thanks to the workers who, against all odds, deliver quality health care despite the pressures they face,” said Johb. “Without the people trained and prepared to deliver the care, our system would collapse.”

Health care workers provide so much to people, the emotional and social support needed when facing illness. Labour representatives are also desperately asking for a national workforce plan to address the critical staff shortages that have been exasperated by COVID-19. We must ensure that all money coming from the federal government is invested into our public health system and stop those who want to undermine it and profit from it. Using public funds for private services violates the Canadian Health Act but recent attacks show us we must be vigilant in protecting our public health care.

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Johb: Provincial budget must be focused on job creation https://sfl.sk.ca/news/johb-provinicial-budget-must-be-focused-on-job-creation Mon, 14 Mar 2022 14:25:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/johb-provinicial-budget-must-be-focused-on-job-creation

Two years into the pandemic, workers in Saskatchewan are struggling.

A recent Angus Reid survey revealed that a startling 41 per cent of Saskatchewan people were concerned that they could lose their job due to the state of the economy; 51 per cent reported that they were carrying too much debt, and 61 per cent responded that they wouldn’t be able to cover an emergency expense over $1,000.

These are clear signs that our province needs to start taking our provincial economy and job creation seriously.

When the pandemic arrived on our doorstep in March 2020, workers in the province were faced with uncertainty. Jobs disappeared overnight, and many found themselves struggling to make ends meet, even with programs like CERB and other supports from the federal government.

The provincial government relied heavily on these federal programs and failed to invest meaningfully in additional supports for workers in the province. They refused to provide wage top-ups to many front-line workers, and left money from the federal government, meant to be invested in worker safety, unspent.

During the last wave of COVID-19 earlier this year, the government refused to implement additional public health measures, leaving workers ineligible for any additional emergency federal relief funds as businesses reduced their hours or were forced to close due to outbreaks.

These are just a few of the many examples of the ways workers have been left behind by our provincial government as the pandemic delivered them blow after blow.

It’s time for the provincial government to take some responsibility for the economic situation in the province. Contrary to what they would like us to believe, not everything is the prime minister’s fault. In fact, without federal supports provided over the past two years, it goes without saying that the situation in this province would be much worse.

The government needs to stop playing the blame game and come up with a plan to grow our economy and get Saskatchewan people back to work.

The upcoming provincial budget is the perfect opportunity for our government to take action and address these issues head on. Workers who have been lucky enough to secure employment throughout the pandemic are now finding themselves dealing with high inflation and skyrocketing gas prices that have made it even harder for them to make ends meet.

We need our government to get to work on a plan to create good jobs across all sectors. We need meaningful investments in our public services to create jobs in health care, education, and childcare and early learning. We also need our government to finally raise our minimum wage to lift low-wage workers out of poverty and give the economy a boost.

Nobody in our province who works a full-time job should have to rely on the food bank to make ends meet, but when we have the second-lowest minimum wage in the country, that is an unfortunate reality for too many.

Workers in Saskatchewan will be watching the provincial budget carefully, looking for support from their government during these difficult times.

A clear plan, and investments to create good jobs and boost our economy, should be their top priority.

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Two years later, workers still left behind in pandemic response https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/two-years-later-workers-still-left-behind-in-pandemic-response Thu, 10 Mar 2022 14:23:00 -0800 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/two-years-later-workers-still-left-behind-in-pandemic-response

Today marks two years since the COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Two years later, the provincial government has made it clear that they have not learned any lessons from the worst health crisis in Canadian history, as workers are still being left behind without access to paid sick leave, proper PPE, and the necessary information they need to ensure that they are being kept safe at work.

“Today, as we mark the second anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, we remember the workers who have died as a result of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace, and those who became seriously ill and have suffered long term health issues,” said SFL President Lori Johb. “We must honour the lives of these workers, and continue our fight to keep workers safe.”

Johb said the SFL will continue to push for worker safety measures such as:

  • Paid sick leave for all workers
  • Proper PPE and ventilation in workplaces
  • Ensuring safe staffing levels in healthcare, education and public services
  • Ensuring workers’ right to know about risks in the workplace, including their risk of contracting COVID-19, is upheld through the return of daily COVID case reporting

“The SFL has been fighting for basic safety measures to protect workers since the start of the pandemic, but they have been continually ignored by the Sask. Party government,” said Johb. “Instead, the Sask. Party has failed workers since the start of the pandemic- from refusing to provide even the most basic safety measures like N-95 masks for healthcare workers and leaving federal funding meant to protect workers unspent, to refusing to pay wage top ups to frontline workers. Worst of all, they ignored the advice of health care professionals and prematurely dropped all public health measures which led to a devastating fourth wave that has done lasting and irreversible damage to our healthcare system.”

Johb said that even after the pandemic has finally ended, Saskatchewan workers won’t forget how they were treated by the Sask. Party government.

“This government failed to do their duty to keep workers safe during a public health crisis, and workers became sick and, sadly, died as a result of this inaction. The election may still be a few years away, but, when the time comes to vote, workers will remember this government’s failures.”

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Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau- Invest in Public Healthcare https://sfl.sk.ca/news/letter-to-prime-minister-trudeau-invest-in-public-healthcare Wed, 09 Mar 2022 12:57:00 -0800 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/letter-to-prime-minister-trudeau-invest-in-public-healthcare

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,

Re: Invest in Public Health Care

I am writing to call on your government to address the severe and urgent need for additional investment in public health care. Federations of Labour across the Country represent over 3 million workers including hundreds of thousands of care workers.

We strongly urge your government to act immediately to increase the resources available to improve the capacity of publicly-funded, publicly-delivered health systems.

Some provincial premiers have let working people down, and left families to fend for themselves against the harsh realities of an under-resourced system. They have rolled out the red carpet for private corporations, while failing to adequately fund even core health care services and facilities. Some have even launched personal attacks vilifying health care workers – at the height of the worst pandemic in living memory. Federal funding must be increased, and those transfers must include stipulations for better patient care and improved working conditions. These funds must also be allocated in a way that ensures they will be directed toward publicly-operated health care facilities, leaving no room for provinces and territories to shift more health care service delivery to profit-seeking companies.

The efforts of right-wing politicians and lobbyists to hand over the most lucrative pieces of health care to private interests and leave the more complicated cases to the public system are being presented as a national debate on health care. Let’s be clear – there is no debate. There is the public interest, and there is private, profit-seeking interest. The vast majority of Canadians do not need to be convinced of the consequences of a U.S. style health care system being contemplated here in Canada; they believe that our health care should be funded and delivered publicly, as has always been intended by the Canada Health Act.

Siphoning money into private clinics that duplicate services and reduce oversight is not in the best interest of Canadians. These private services also draw valuable human resources away from our already understaffed public system. We have already seen the consequences of many health services being contracted to private companies, such as long-term care and home care. Not only are profits skimmed from the wages of workers, but the quality of care is often lower, workplace conditions are often poor, and there is less public oversight. For example, COVID-19 outbreaks in private care homes were both longer and more lethal than in publicly-run facilities. Multinational companies often invest these profits outside of Canada, moving public tax dollars out of our local economies.

The fact that the public system works as well as it does, despite being underfunded, demonstrates that better investments and coordination in public health care delivery is the best way to achieve the outcomes Canadians expect and deserve.

In addition to more hospitals and urgent care capacity, many communities across Canada need targeted long-term care and mental health support. Each province has its own unique needs, and requires the flexibility to put money where it’s needed most. But there must be a clear, unbreakable caveat: These funds are reserved solely for the public delivery of care.

Canadians have also been clear that they are growing impatient with the federal government’s unfulfilled commitment to a national pharmacare program. It is time to put public health over politics. It is time for a comprehensive national system that will ensure families have all the care they need when they need it, that health care workers have the resources and capacity they need to do their jobs safely, and necessary preventative care is in place to deliver the cost savings our health care systems need to be sustainable.

A national health workforce plan is critical to the longer-term sustainability of our health care system. Across the country, Covid has exacerbated underlying severe staff shortages, in some cases jeopardizing our system’s capacity to deliver quality, timely care. An improved funding model would go a long way toward properly compensating health care workers, reducing forced overtime and creating better overall working conditions – which in turn will improve retention, reduce burnout and help with recruitment.

Current federal funding levels for health care are insufficient to sustain growing care needs now and into the post-pandemic future. Canadians need the federal government to step up with funding now to address the current gaps in public health care without opening more opportunities for private for-profit health care to take hold in Canada. We cannot allow the situation to worsen. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, a national health workforce plan is required to ensure the long-term sustainability of the health care system. The federal government must do their part to ensure adequate resources are available and directed to increasing service capacity and infrastructure as part of a robust public health care system.

Our plans are to inform our members and engage the general public in our demands. We know that the vast majority of Canadians support increased investment in public health care and pharmacare. We certainly look forward to your response and we are available for any discussions you might consider.

Respectfully,

Lori Johb

President

Saskatchewan Federation of Labour
l.johb@sfl.sk.ca

cc: Hon. Scott Moe, Premier of Saskatchewan
Hon. Paul Merriman, Minister of Health, Saskatchewan
Provincial/Territorial Federations of Labour
Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Finance
Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health
Bea Bruske, President, Canadian Labour Congress
SFL Executive Council

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Letter to Premier Moe and Minister Morgan: Urgent Actions to Protect Workers in Sask. from COVID-19 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/letter-to-premier-moe-and-minister-morgan-urgent-actions-to-protect-workers-in-sask-from-covid-19 Mon, 28 Feb 2022 08:22:00 -0800 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/letter-to-premier-moe-and-minister-morgan-urgent-actions-to-protect-workers-in-sask-from-covid-19

Premier Moe and Minister Morgan,

I am writing to you today to bring to your attention the urgent need for COVID-19 updates to be provided to the public on a regular basis, as well as several other urgent and necessary actions that the provincial government must take so that workers both be kept safe at work as well as know about the risks they face in their workplace due to COVID-19.

Workers in Saskatchewan have three basic rights- and the ability to exercise them- protected under The Saskatchewan Employment Act. (SEA Act, Part III, Divisions 3, 4 & 5):

• The right to know the hazards at work and how to control them;

• The right to participate in finding and controlling workplace hazards, and

• The right to refuse work that you believe is unusually dangerous.

These rights mean that employers have a responsibility under law in Saskatchewan to provide workers with a safe workplace. This includes providing the information workers need so that they can properly understand and assess the risk of contracting COVID 19 in their workplace. The current situation where data is only reported by the province weekly makes this impossible. Workers’ rights in Saskatchewan exist to protect workers, and the government’s decision to not regularly report COVID-19 case numbers undermines and potentially even violates this legislation.

Along with reinstating regular COVID-19 updates, we also urge you to take the following actions to keep workers safe:

  • Legislate paid sick time for all workers. This will ensure that workers in Saskatchewan who currently don’t have access to paid sick time will not have to make the choice between either not being paid or going to work sick.
  • Ensure access to proper Personal Protective Equipment. This includes providing proper medical-grade masks needed to keep workers safe while at work.
  • Ensure safe staffing levels. All workplaces, including healthcare, education and public services- need proper safe staffing levels. This needs to be funded publicly and under the current agreements.

Workers have been on the frontlines every day in Saskatchewan, putting themselves and their families at risk from day one of the pandemic. Our provincial government must recognize this and put the above necessary protections in place to keep workers and the people of our province safe.

We urge you to reconsider the decision not to post regular COVID-19 updates. Without proper public reporting of this information, it is impossible for workers to be aware of workplace outbreaks and assess the risks they face due to COVID 19, which is still raging in our province. We also urge you to take the following actions listed above to ensure that workers in the province are kept safe while at work.

I hope that you will reconsider your position on these important issues. It is my hope that, by taking these steps, we can reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in the province and finally beat this virus once and for all.

I am available if you wish to discuss further.

Sincerely,

Lori Johb

President

Saskatchewan Federation of Labour

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5 things to know about paid sick leave in Saskatchewan https://sfl.sk.ca/news/5-things-to-know-about-paid-sick-leave-in-saskatchewan Wed, 16 Feb 2022 14:05:00 -0800 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/5-things-to-know-about-paid-sick-leave-in-saskatchewan

We read the fine print so you don’t have to! Welcome to “5 things to know about…” a series of blogs that cover major issues facing the working people of Saskatchewan.

WHAT: Paid Sick Leave

WHY IT MATTERS: This might come as a shock to you, but we’re in the middle of a global pandemic. So being able to take time off without being penalized is *pretty* important.

WHAT’S THE UPDATE: We’ve been pushing for this for a while and just a few weeks ago the government tabled a motion for mandatory paid sick leave in the province.

WHERE’S IT AT NOW: Well, the government won’t meet to vote on it again until the fall so now is a great time to let all of our political leaders, no matter what party they’re from, that WE WANT THIS.

HOW DO I DO THAT: Click this link and add your name. We’ll gather a big list of people and shout it from the rooftops before session is back in the fall. Wouldn’t hurt if you shared this either! And once we know more we’ll send you an email that gives you an update.

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