January 11, 2017 10:04 pm
Updated: January 12, 2017 5:40 pm

Saskatchewan government explores privatizing government building cleaning services

Richard Murray, deputy minister for the Ministry of Central Services, speaks on Jan. 12 about Saskatchewan looking at privatizing cleaners for government buildings.

Adrian Raaber / Global News
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Unionized workers who clean government buildings are speaking out against the province’s plan to examine whether to privatize cleaning services at government-owned buildings.

According to the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU), the provincial government will cut 251 custodial positions. Of those jobs, the SGEU said 139 are permanent full-time, 59 are permanent part-time and 53 are non-permanent jobs.

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The SGEU says if services are privatized, those workers in 17 communities would have to apply for their own jobs at a 40 per cent pay cut.

“I think it’s moral and unethical what the government is doing here,” Bob Bymoen, president of the SGEU said.

“It won’t fix the economy if anything it just aggravates the problem that we’re having in the economy today.”

READ MORE: Unions say talk of wage rollbacks, layoffs unfair to Saskatchewan workers

The government has confirmed the Ministry of Central Services is in the process of looking at whether there is any value to hiring private sector workers for cleaning services at government buildings.

On Thursday, the ministry submitted a request for services for private sector cleaning services bids for 101 buildings in the province. This will remain open until Feb. 10.

Richard Murray, deputy minister for the Ministry of Central Services, there will be additional “points” or another rating system for employees that wish to bid on the work and for any company that commits to hiring existing cleaning staff.

Murray said the decision was “purely a business decision”

“We’re the only Canadian jurisdiction to our knowledge that exclusively uses government employees to clean government buildings and so we’ve been considering this for probably a year-and-a-half,” Murray said.

“We just felt it was the right time to do a thorough assessment, go to market, take a look at the numbers and see if we can achieve some cost savings through the private sector.”

The Saskatchewan government is currently looking for savings as it tackles a $1-billion dollar deficit.

However, Murray said while the Ministry of Central Services is facing fiscal pressures like any other ministry it also wants to look at if there is a way to better spend taxpayer dollars on services and achieve savings.

“If there are no savings, we will not proceed with it. If there are savings, we’ll take a hard look at it,” Murray said.

According to Murray, due to current legislation, the union agreements would not transfer over to new employers

The average wage for cleaners is $19.20 per hour. Wages can range from $16.50/hour to $20.70/hour.

“Many of these people are in the lowest pay scale in government,” Byomen said.

Thirty government-owned buildings in Buffalo Narrows, La Ronge, Saskatoon and Prince Albert are already cleaned by private-sector contractors

Byomen said there have already been seven job cuts in Weyburn.

“So when the government says that this is just a trial, that this isn’t really happening, it’s misleading what they’re saying there.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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