The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) is calling for mandatory COVID-19 immunizations for all health-care workers as the province deals with the fourth wave of the pandemic.
The union is also calling on the province to reinstate public health measures, including but not limited to mandatory masking for indoor public spaces and screening of visitors.
SUN represents more than 10,000 registered nurses, registered psychiatric nurses and nurse practitioners.
Union president Tracy Zambory said the call to make immunizations mandatory is timely, since the province is into the fourth wave. The province reported 244 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.
"It's really important that we do the right thing. And that right thing is getting vaccinated," Zambory said.
"We have to look after and keep the public safe. And that's what we intend to do with our stand on mandatory vaccines."
Zambory said SUN will support people who cannot be vaccinated for medical or religious reasons. The collective agreement will ensure that those people have their rights upheld and can continue to be a part of the workforce.
"There would be mandatory testing, personal protective equipment that they would be able to maintain to the highest degree in the areas in which they work, and to be able to look at working in different areas," Zambory said in reference to the workers who cannot be vaccinated for medical or religious reasons.
She said the union will also respect the rights of workers who refuse to be vaccinated for reasons other than medical or religious. Such workers would face alternatives like antigen testing, wearing personal protective equipment and working in a different area, she said.
"As a board, we knew that our membership was overwhelmingly vaccinated and knew that we would have overwhelming support from our members to take a strong stand on mandatory vaccinations," she said.
SUN is also calling on the provincial government to reintroduce public health measures.
"There is no public health order in Saskatchewan and masking is no longer required, however masking continues to be an option for all residents who wish to do so. Individuals may want to consider masking in areas of high transmission, in indoor public places or for personal health reasons. It is important that we create an environment that respects the choices of others," the Ministry of Health said in an emailed statement.
University of Saskatchewan professor and epidemiologist Nazeem Muhajarine said the province should reintroduce public health measures.
"There's no question in my mind that we are overdue for reintroduction of public health measures in Saskatchewan," Muhajarine said.
"In this fourth wave or the delta-driven wave of COVID-19, we are seeing that it is disproportionately affecting the young ones in our communities. We need to ensure that public health measures are in place when children return to school in September and we are running out of time to do that."
Muhajarine said the government should also bring about a framework of health measures for all school divisions to adhere to in order to keep children safe faster during school.
"We should even be looking at mandating or proof of vaccination for all those who are eligible to get a vaccine," he said.
"We should be looking at masking particularly when there's a congregation of children."