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Saskatoon care home workers issue strike notice

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Workers at group homes run by LutherCare Communities in Saskatoon have issued a strike notice after negotiations stalled between the union and employer.

Service Employees International Union West (SEIU-West) says staff at the six unionized LutherCare group homes across the city will begin job action on Wednesday.

The union says wages and attempts to secure two days off in a row to rest — otherwise known as a weekend — are key sticking points in the stalled talks.

“This action will result in some services being withdrawn by our members, and those services will have to be taken care of by management,” SEIU-West president Barbara Cape said in a release.

“There’s time to avoid the withdrawal of services, but the ball is in the employer’s court to put forward a fair deal to settle a long overdue collective agreement.”

The union says over the years, shifts have become shorter, to the point that even full-time staff find themselves continuously working seven days a week to make enough hours.

SEIU-West is asking for proper rest, and scheduled two-day-in-a-row breaks for LutherCare staff.

“The Employer seems ambivalent to our members’ need for respect, fairness, and a living wage. Let’s be clear, everyone deserves a weekend, even if it’s not the traditional Saturday and Sunday,” Cape said.

Cape says workers are also concerned that their managers are given the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a statutory holiday, but they are not.

“There’s still the issue of the employer offering the statutory holiday, National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, to out of scope managers, but not the staff working on the frontline of the homes.”

In a statement emailed to media on Tuesday afternoon, LutherCare said it wanted to reassure residents and their families that the "safety and security of residents remains our priority."

LutherCare said it was pleased to learn that medical appointments and urgent care won't be impacted by the job action.

It also said management tried contacting the union since the conciliation talks ended on March 1, but hadn't heard back.

"We have reached out on several occasions to the union asking for clarification on their position regarding our last offer and there has been no response to date," Chief People Officer Chad Okrainetz said in the statement.

"We believe we have offered a fair package that includes a wage increase retroactive to April 1st, 2023, increased medical care leave, a signing bonus and the inclusion of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a statutory holiday," said Okrainetz.

The organization was open to offering the new stat holiday, on the question of offering staff two consecutive days off per week, it was equivocal. 

"While we cannot offer every weekend off due to our commitment to provide 24/7 care, we do schedule our shifts to ensure that team members are eligible for at least two days off each week, except in situation where a team member elects to work overtime on their days off," Okrainetz said.

"We are hoping to get back to the bargaining table soon for further discussion on these issues."

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