Workers at Regina Mobile Crisis Services have voted in favour of the option to strike.
The Saskatchewan Government Employees Union (SGEU) said 38 members issued a strike mandate to the negotiating committee. The last collective bargaining agreement expired in March 2014.
According to the union, negotiations were held up over the issue of scheduling one person to answer phone calls on weekday afternoons, as well as cutting back staff levels to only three or two people instead of four on the weekends which are typically busier.
Crisis workers are available 24 hours a day and seven days a week to help people in emergency situations. They handle suicide intervention, respond to domestic violence calls and care for children during violent family crisis. SGEU says scheduling is putting clients at greater risk.
“Employees are continually left with making these unethical decisions about which person is going to be dealt with, and which person is going to be on put on hold,” explained SGEU president Bob Bymoen.
Bymoen said while there are always discussions about money in any contract negotiation, the scheduling issue is the most significant one at this time.
A strike mandate means that the union can issue 48 hours of notice to the employer for a strike if necessary.
A government spokesperson issued a brief statement on behalf of the Ministry of Social Services in response to the strike mandate.
“We value the important work that mobile crisis workers do to support vulnerable individuals, families and children,” the statement said. “Bargaining is continuing and we can’t comment in detail on that.”
It went on to say that in the event of a strike, Social Services will ensure access to emergency services.
Officials with Regina Mobile Crisis will provide a response to the media on Wednesday afternoon.