Workers in community-based organizations need protections during COVID-19 pandemic

“Our members in the CBO sector provide vital services to some of the most vulnerable people in our society. We need to recognize these workers for their dedication and ensure they have access to proper personal protective equipment (PPE).” ― Bob Bymoen, SGEU President

Regina (15 April 2020) ― The 3 unions ― Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU/NUPGE), Service Employees International Union (SEIU-West), and Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE Saskatchewan) ― representing workers at community-based organizations (CBO) in Saskatchewan have joined forces to call on all levels of government to provide additional support to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Front-line workers not given proper personal protective equipment

“Our members in the CBO sector provide vital services to some of the most vulnerable people in our society. During the COVID-19 pandemic, our members are still working on the front lines, putting themselves at risk to provide these services to Saskatchewan residents who need them,” said Bob Bymoen, SGEU President. “We need to recognize these workers for their dedication and ensure they have access to proper personal protective equipment (PPE).”

CBOs are non-profit agencies that fill in the gaps when direct government programs don’t meet the needs of people living in Saskatchewan. They provide services in areas such as addictions counseling, group homes, women’s shelters, daycares and mobile crisis agencies.

CBO workers provide a resource that helps prevent community spread

“Our members deliver critical programs to the public that should be seen as a front-line resource in preventing the community spread of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Barbara Cape, SEIU-West President. “Yet the rules and guidelines are not clear, nor is the call to action within the CBO sector that will enable CBO workers to help flatten the curve.”

The CBO sector is already faced with a multitude of challenges, including the lack of stable multi-year funding. This is a sector where resources are already limited, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a need for all levels of government to provide additional and much-needed resources, including funding, clear guidelines and training in the use of PPE, rather than leaving facilities and staff to manage on their own.

Incredibly difficult challenges unique to the CBO sector

“We are calling for government oversight to ensure proper protocols are in place to protect workers and clients,” said Judy Henley, CUPE Saskatchewan President. “We need to provide resources in the form of protocols and supplies of PPE; a plan for multisite work to avoid the spread of the virus; and program and staff resources to ensure the safety of the staff and clients as they manage some incredibly difficult challenges that are unique to the CBO sector.”

Thank all CBO workers during and after the pandemic

The 3 unions are asking members of the public to take time to recognize and thank all CBO workers for the important work they do, not only during this pandemic but on a daily basis. They are also asking that people stay home as much as possible, practice proper hygiene, including frequent hand washing and continue to practice physical distancing in order to help flatten the curve.

CUPE, SEIU-West, and SGEU/NUPGE represent CBO workers in approximately 80 agencies across the province and have been working together for more than a decade to support and promote workers in this sector.