Union says vacant social services jobs impacting northern Sask. communities
30 vacancies for social workers in the north
A union representing Saskatchewan social workers says it's worried a government hiring freeze will hurt communities and people in the north.
The Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union says the Ministry of Social Services has identified more than 30 vacant positions in its northern service area this month.
The union says those positions need to be filled to help northern communities grappling with pressing social issues, including the suicides of six Indigenous girls since October.
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"Now, more than ever, government needs to respond with action. One basic step is to ensure vacant positions are filled by permanent staff and that new positions are created to meet the critical need," union president Bob Bymoen said in a press release Thursday.
"We are concerned that the recently announced hiring freeze in government could prevent this from happening."
There isn't enough time or resources to adequately respond.- Bob Bymoen, SGEU president
The Saskatchewan government imposed a hiring freeze Tuesday after announcing it's facing a $1-billion deficit. It said the freeze doesn't apply to front-line positions, such as social workers, and other positions considered essential.
But Bymoen said workers haven't been given support to do their jobs in a way that ensures vulnerable clients will be safe.
"Many front-line social services staff struggle to manage high caseloads, knowing that families and children desperately need help, but there isn't enough time or resources to adequately respond."
Social Services Minister Tina Beaudry-Mellor could not immediately say why there are 30 vacancies in the north.
"I'm very concerned about that," she told reporters at the legislature.
"But I think part of our income assistance [program] redesign is to make sure that our social workers and our income assistance workers are doing the job that they want to do and they were trained to do ... which is much more intensive case work — which is what they currently struggle with doing."
Beaudry-Mellor said earlier this month that income assistance will be redesigned to make it easier for workers and people to use.