'Workers are tired': Sask. public sector unions call on government to impose further COVID-19 restrictions
Unions representing more than 113,000 Saskatchewan workers are pleading with the provincial government to immediately mandate public health measures based on recommendations from the province’s top doctor.
In an effort to slow the community spread of COVID-19 and preserve services and programs, union leaders for the health-care and education sectors want the province to implement a 10-person cap on gathering limits and create a public health order around limiting non-essential contacts, establishing a “consistent bubble” and reducing non-essential travel between communities.
“The workers are tired,” said Judy Henley, Saskatchewan president for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
“We need to make sure we have the health-care services and all other services for the people of Saskatchewan.”
Henley’s calls were echoed by five other organizations during a virtual press conference on Thursday hosted by the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL), Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF), Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN), Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU), Service Employees International Union West (SEIU-West) and CUPE.
“Travel limits will protect rural communities,” Henley said.
“Right now, services that are out in rural communities are limited, even vaccinations and testing.”
In a press conference on Jan. 12, Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer reiterated the public should avoid all non-essential gatherings, and limit contacts to only school and work.
“Certainly being cautious against any gatherings in the house or any gatherings in any public place, where it is not essential, I think can only help,” said Dr. Saqib Shahab.
In a statement, Premier Scott Moe said the government is using “real-time data” from across the country to guide its COVID-19 response.
“The government recognizes that hospitalizations are rising and will continue to rise for some period of time,” Moe said.
“However, we see no clear evidence that lockdown measures have reduced hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths in other provinces and as a result, there is no reason to impose harmful new restrictions in Saskatchewan.”
Henley said the premier is playing politics, adding it is up to Moe, as well as employers, to keep the workplace safe. Right now, she said, workers feel disrespected and unprotected.
“He has given many people a false sense of security that everything is OK and it’s not OK.”
Health authority staff absences are up 140 per cent compared to the fourth wave, according to SHA officials, with roughly 1,000 employees taking time off work in the first week of January due to COVID-19.
According to SUN president Tracy Zambory, some hospital wards are short 10 staff members each day.
“People are suffering. Morale is low. They cannot continue on,” Zambory said.
Barbara Cape, SEIU-West president, said staffing shortages and burnout are leading to a, “lack of focus and concentration on (employees’) ability to do their work.”
In some cases, Cape said union members are working 16 to 20 hours in a day to cover vacant shifts.
“When you look at their ability to provide bedside care or to manage the cleanliness, the dietary needs or the provision of medications to residents, mistakes are going to be made,” Cape said.
According to Cape, healthcare services are already being impacted by the Omicron wave. She said there are reductions to services such as dialysis, as well as reduced care provided in long-term care homes.
Disruptions to in-class learning
In the education system, Saskatchewan Teachers Federation President, Patrick Maze, said Omicron is impacting resources, supports and, ultimately, students’ learning.
“Substitute teachers are playing a vital role in keeping schools open, but there aren't enough to provide coverage,” Maze said, adding the education system entered the pandemic with a substitute shortage.
“Some schools have had to find non-instructional and unqualified staff to simply offer supervision due to a shortage of substitutes.”
According to Maze, some English as an additional language programs are being shuttered in order to reassign teachers to different classrooms. He said the same thing is happening to instructors assigned to students with high needs.
“Those are some of our most vulnerable students, and they're losing the supports and the education they require.”
Maze said schools are a function of the community and without restrictions on community gatherings, COVID transmission in schools is, “inevitable.”
According to Dr. Shahab, nearly one quarter of COVID-19 transmission happens in schools. About 50 per cent happens in households and the rest takes place outside of those settings.
Last week, both Catholic and public school divisions in Regina and Saskatoon had hundreds of self-reported COVID cases, forcing a number of classrooms to move to remote learning.
Kevin Gabel, executive director of the programs branch for the Ministry of Education, said school divisions are working closely with their local medical health officers to do what is in the “best interest of all children.” He said the main focus is keeping schools open and kids inside the classroom.
Like the government, Maze believes the best way for students to learn is in-person. However, he calls the back-and-forth from in-person to remote learning “disruptive.”
“Unfortunately, everything COVID-related has become a divisive issue, but we must all agree that a child's education is critical and essential,” he said.
Regina Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
The police official blamed for not sending officers in more quickly to stop the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting is the chief of the school system's small police force, a unit dedicated ordinarily to building relationships with students and responding to the occasional fight.
Speakers at the National Rifle Association annual meeting assailed a Chicago gun ban that doesn't exist, ignored security upgrades at the Texas school where children were slaughtered and roundly distorted national gun and crime statistics as they pushed back against any tightening of gun laws.
Fifty-eight-year-old Vivian Ketchum is set to receive her high school diploma at a graduation ceremony at the University of Winnipeg next month. It is a moment that is decades in the making.
The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos was met with justifiable criticisms and unfounded conspiracy theories.
An 11-year-old survivor of the Robb Elementary School massacre in Uvalde, Texas, feared the gunman would come back for her so she smeared herself in her friend's blood and played dead.
Students trapped inside a classroom with a gunman repeatedly called 911 during this week's attack on a Texas elementary school, including one who pleaded, 'Please send the police now,' as officers waited more than an hour to breach the classroom after following the gunman into the building, authorities said Friday.
Fragments of a comet broken nearly 30 years ago could potentially light up the night sky Monday as experts predict an 'all or nothing' spectacle.
A new report says Ottawa, Vancouver and Toronto rank among the top 20 cities around the world when it comes to work-life balance.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra says the federal government is working with groups on the ground to resolve air travel 'bottlenecks' in time for a busy summer.
Barrett Ross says his dog Indy suffered a punctured bowel, lost a tooth and had his stomach injured when he was attacked by three other dogs.
The Saskatoon Tribal Council's (STC) temporary downtown shelter has been granted an extension to operate at its present location until April 2023 — but Tribal Chief Mark Arcand hopes to relocate well before then.
A pedestrian injured by a vehicle in Prince Albert has died.
Pembina Trails School Division is confirming to CTV News that a group of students found a body during community cleanup at Ècole South Pointe School.
Winnipeg police are telling people to find an alternate route this afternoon as they are investigating a fatal crash near the St. Boniface Industrial Park.
'It's one way to be creative': Winnipeg student wants to be a bartender when older; school doesn't like comment in yearbook
Bartender. That is what one Grade 4 student said for the yearbook when asked what he wanted to be when he grows up, an answer the school is asking him to change.
A southern Alberta man who killed three people, including a two-year-old girl, could have the ability to request a release from jail earlier than his original sentence intended, thanks to a landmark Supreme Court decision Friday.
Calgary Flames fans are still coming to terms with a playoff series loss to the Edmonton Oilers Thursday night in a game that saw both controversy and heartbreak following a Connor McDavid overtime goal.
Western Canada's premiers want to reform their health-care systems by expanding services but they say Ottawa first needs to pick up the phone.
A hotly-controversial decision on whether or not to freeze base funding for police in Edmonton was delayed Friday as fallout from a dispute between the mayor and the provincial justice minister continued to rattle political circles.
A 19-year-old man is in police custody after a shooting near Rogers Place after an Edmonton Oilers viewing party ended Thursday evening.
A shelter many expected to remain open until the end of June in Wetaskiwin, Alta., will close a month early.
WATCH | New video appears to show man carrying air rifle on Toronto streets before being killed by police
A man shot dead by police officers near a Toronto elementary school on Thursday afternoon appears to have been captured on home security footage carrying an air rifle moments before the incident.
A 21-year-old Toronto man is facing a slew of charges following a suspected hate-motivated incident at a Jewish school in North York.
Toronto Pearson International is warning travellers and Mississauga residents they may notice unusual activity at the airport this weekend.
NEW THIS MORNING
NEW THIS MORNING | Here's what we know about the storm cleanup in Ottawa today
Hydro Ottawa is not committing to a new deadline to restore power to thousands of customers, one week after a devastating storm with wind gusts of 190 km/h hit Ottawa.
NEW THIS MORNING
NEW THIS MORNING | What you need to know about Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend
It's the first in-person Ottawa Race Weekend in Ottawa since 2019, after the 2020 and 2021 events were shifted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of Friday evening, 26,000 Hydro Ottawa customers remain without power in all neighbourhoods of the city.
A B.C. mom with a rare, debilitating illness has spent years trying to get the help she needs. Now she's considering medical assistance in dying.
The number of COVID-19 patients in B.C. hospitals hit its lowest point in more than a month this week, and the decline was driven largely by regions outside the Lower Mainland.
Researchers working in partnership with UBC believe an eco-friendly material could help solve the world’s plastic pollution problem.
Is it unconstitutional to make someone pay to get a legal document translated into French? One of Montreal's top lawyers thinks so, and pointed out two other things from Bill 96 that he thinks the courts would most easily find fault with.
Canada's highest court has ruled that Alexandre Bissonnette, who murdered six people at the Quebec City mosque in 2017, will be eligible for parole after 25 years.
Quebec says it is ready to vaccinate people who have come into close contact with monkeypox as soon as Friday.
B.C. speedboat driver arrested with 650kg of meth 'feared for his family's safety,' he told U.S. investigators
New details are emerging after a 51-year-old Alberta man was arrested aboard a speedboat that U.S. authorities say was carrying 650 kilograms of methamphetamine between Washington state and British Columbia.
The emergency department at Port McNeill Hospital unexpectedly shut down on Friday evening due to a staffing shortage.
At least one building was destroyed Friday afternoon as firefighters rushed to a large fire at the vacant Pioneer Square Mall in Mill Bay, B.C.
A Cape Breton father is warning the public of the dangers in the area he lives after his teenager son fell nearly 40 feet over a cliff in Glace Bay.
A lawyer for families of victims killed in the Nova Scotia mass shooting says an 18-hour delay in finding five bodies of those murdered is a sign of "deficient" policing.
The lawyer who represented a man who murdered three RCMP officers nearly eight years ago in Moncton, N.B., said a decision made by the Supreme Court of Canada Friday may potentially change his sentence.
Thursday evening, the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce hosted the 25th annual Bell Business Excellence Awards.
On Friday, there was a walk in Sudbury to remember the remains of 215 residential schoolchildren found in Kamloops, B.C., a year ago May 27.
Staff at the new Sault Metis Centre are getting set for the grand opening Saturday.
A man, who was a referee at high school volleyball games in Guelph for more than 30 years, is facing sex assault-related charges.
The Region of Waterloo says there's a high safety risk at a Kitchener encampment and they are working with residents to prepare them for their eventual move.
Two low-cost airlines are butting heads over an agreement at the Region of Waterloo International Airport. Swoop wants to offer flights but the airport already has an exclusivity deal with rival Flair Airlines