Mobile crisis workers say it’s stressful and unsafe to leave one person alone to answer calls during the day.
The collective agreement for 38 members of the Saskatchewan Government Employees Union (SGEU) expired in March 2014. Last week they voted in favour of a strike mandate, saying that negotiations are stalled over the issue of scheduling one person to answer the phone lines at the crisis phone line between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Regina Mobile Crisis is a non-profit agency that handles calls for everything from problem gambling and the farm stress line, to child abuse, social services, mental health referrals, trauma response for and the suicide crisis line.
Bronwyn Wyatt has worked at Regina Mobile Crisis Services for 16 years. She was part of an information picket line this week, explaining their side to the public. She says 33 per cent of the calls to Mobile Crisis come through between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
“Those are just the calls our workers are able to do, what’s happened is that our staff have been missing calls because they don’t have the ability to answer every line at one time,” Wyatt said.
The employer says management made the decision to direct the limited budget toward keeping more people on staff at night when they take more calls after other agencies close. A member of the board of directors said the agency is operating at a deficit and currently negotiating with seven major funding partners to get more resources.
Wyatt says even if the calls are different during the day, people at mobile crisis are still doing counselling and referrals and assisting Social Services and the health region.
She said the agency used to have three staff members during the day and added that since 2013 the number of calls has increased by 22 per cent.
“To know that I’m on a call with someone who is feeling suicidal or who is having some emotional issues that they need to talk about, but there’s someone else ringing through on a different line that may have similar or more high risk needs, it’s extremely stressful to know that we can’t answer that,” Wyatt said.
She says workers wind up rushing through calls trying to do as much as possible in a shorter period of time, but that doesn’t offer the best quality of service for clients at risk.