Labour Day is an important reminder of our strength when we work together toward a common good.

This past year has been a difficult one for all of us – both in our professional lives as registered nurses and in our daily lives in our communities. COVID-19 has turned the world upside down for everyone. So many workers and families are suffering and have sacrificed so much as governments have been forced to implement drastic measures to stave off the spread of the virus.

In the true Saskatchewan way, people in our province have united to face this pandemic head-on because they recognized that it is only by working together, for our common good, we can overcome COVID-19 and save lives.

You have worked alongside your health care colleagues and all the other essential workers from grocery store clerks and gas station attendants to transit drivers and many more since day one. And you have been supported by your communities as Saskatchewan society has come together in an unprecedented show of solidarity to follow health official recommendations around social distancing, staying home and hand hygiene. This sense of community is why Saskatchewan has seen such success and it makes me so proud to call this province home.

As registered nurses I know the balancing act of keeping your loved ones safe, being a parent and caring for your patients is nothing new. In the face of a pandemic, however, this task has no doubt been far more stressful and challenging.

Today, I want to thank you for always being there for your patients, often at great sacrifice to yourselves and families. Saskatchewan looks up to all of you as health professionals who can and will lead them through their most trying times – during this pandemic and beyond.

There is a long road ahead of us. Schools are reopening, as is the economy, and while these are necessary next steps they will not be without challenges. I ask you all to continue to lead by example and help Saskatchewan find its collective strength to navigate the road ahead. Your province is counting on you.

Knowledge about COVID-19 is growing daily as the global pandemic unfolds. Current evidence suggests COVID-19 is primarily transmitted by respiratory droplets when people are in close proximity. We must therefore look to strategies that will limit this mode of transmission as we reopen. Masks in social settings where physical distancing of at least two meters cannot be maintained is one such strategy. In fact, the Public Health Agency of Canada is recommending this in light of mounting evidence supporting its effectiveness. 

Evidence shows school children can be infected by and spread COVID-19. This means schools are potential environments where the virus could spread among students and to their families, which may include those at increased risk for severe illness. I have heard this concern from many SUN members, echoed by our health care colleagues at the Saskatchewan Medical Association and the Saskatchewan College of Family Physicians. 

As schools and businesses reopen SUN believes now is the time to make mask wearing in public settings when physical distancing cannot be maintained mandatory. This is a critical, evidence-based tool we must add to measures such as handwashing and social distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19. It will ensure we are protecting each other and all of our valued essential workers – a selfless act of community and solidarity I know registered nurses understand.

As a Union we know we are charged with protecting our members and the patients you care for. This is reflected in our vision – Healthy Members, Healthy Union, Healthy Communities – a vision, now more than ever, we strive to live up to.

This Labour Day I commit to you that your Union will continue to support you in your workplaces and beyond. SUN will be your voice and have your back not only as registered nurses but as parents and community members too. We will continue to advocate for evidence-based strategies that will ensure the safety of all citizens as we reopen our province because this pledge to work together towards a common good is at the root of trade unionism and is one of the many reasons we celebrate Labour Day.

Finally, I say to you this: when the stress of it all feels overwhelming, please remember you are valued, supported, and loved by the people of Saskatchewan. Take a stroll through any neighborhood in our province to see the hearts in windows, the chalk drawings on sidewalks and the signs saying “thank you” – these are for all of you and the many essential workers alongside you.

Happy Labour Day.

Tracy Zambory, RN
SUN President