Saskatoon’s Crisis Nursery workers deserve respect

By Denise Leduc

Saskatoon Crisis Nursery is a safe place where children can go to be cared for and to feel safe. The nursery also provides a home-like environment where children receive quality care during their stay.  In 2014-2015 Saskatoon Crisis Nursery served almost 1,500 children and over 700 families.

Recently, the Nursery’s 25 workers are disappointed that management is not honouring its commitment to providing a 1% negotiated pay increase this summer. The workers are represented by SEIU-West.

Knowing that the non-profit organization relies on funding from the government and private donors, workers are used to accepting offers that fall below the rate of inflation during bargaining. Any gains are typically embraced by these essential care workers. Historically, negotiations between management and the union have gone smoothly, but this trend appears to be coming to an end.crisis logo

Almost all of the 25 workers have their own families, many who are single parents. At the end of a day caring for families and children in need, these individual go home to deal with their own day-to-day challenges like raising kids and paying bills.

Now, these workers are understandably confused by management’s decision to not provide a negotiated wage increase. Management has pulled the 1% increase off the table saying only that the, “Landscape has changed”. In Saskatchewan, the constitutional right to collective bargaining is being side stepped by managers and government who invoke austerity as a means of reneging on promises. Teachers in the province are facing something similar, as school boards are being forced to finance negotiated wage increases. Rather than honouring the good faith agreement they made with workers, Nursery management is spending money on a consultant from British Columbia with a background negotiating on behalf of the oil, gas, restaurant industries.

To pay workers the retro pay would cost the Nursery approximately $6000. That amount grows the longer management goes on breaking its promise. In contrast, the union knows of at least five trips made by this consultant to Saskatchewan that has cost significantly more. By the union’s estimate, management has spent over $13,000 to avoid giving workers the 1% increase they were promised. SEIU-West says that what the board is willing to spend on this consultant is offensive. This is not about fairness but about power.

Furthermore, there has been a constant change in leadership at the Nursery, with the board’s executive director changing four times during the course of negotiations. SEIU-West would like the board to step up and provide consistent and quality leadership workers and the organization deserve. During times of crisis care workers are there to provide a valuable service to children who are in need of assistance. Scarce financial resources should not be spent on consultants who fail to provide any meaningful benefit to the Nursery’s principal mission.

In the words of one child care worker, “Often the Ministry of Social Services will bring children to the Nursery when they have no place to go – many times, children are coming from horrific situations.  We are there to dry their tears, feed their bodies and allow them to just be kids.” Indeed, these workers deserve respect.

It seems that management is not valuing the important work these child care providers do each day. Click here to voice your support for Saskatoon’s Crisis Nursery workers.

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