The Saskatchewan government has responded to an announcement that Unifor members plan to start job action Monday.
In a media release early Saturday afternoon, the union representing nearly 5,000 Crown and agency workers said its members will commence job action Monday at 12:01 a.m. They said weekend contract talks were called off by government employers who “refused to move off a government-imposed wage freeze.”
In a statement later Saturday afternoon, finance minister Donna Harpauer indicated the government intends to stand behind their current monetary offer, which the Unifor website lists as 0 per cent, 0 per cent, 1 per cent, 2 per cent and in some cases and an additional year at 2 per cent over five years.
“As publicly communicated by Unifor, the offer from employers to all seven tables amounts to five percent over five years. This is not a wage freeze,” Harpauer said.
Unifor said the job action will initially take “work-to-rule” form. In a letter to members, Unifor said this means they should ignore overtime and ignore company performance efforts.
The letter says this plan will dictate the first four days of job action, adding “escalation” to a strike will occur should a deal not be struck by Friday.
Harpauer’s statement, though, goes on to juxtapose the idea of Unifor striking against those who own the Crown corporations they work for.
“We respect the right of Unifor members to take job action, but believe that a strike is not in the best interest of the Crowns, Crown employees and Crown shareholders — the people of Saskatchewan.”
Unifor represents employees from SaskTel, SaskEnergy, SaskPower, SercurTek, DirectWest, SaskWater and the Water Security Agency. The union filed job action notice on Thursday evening for five of the Crown corporations and the Water Security Agency. SaskTel was served with notice on Sept. 17.
The union, which has been seeking wage increases and improvements in job security and mental health care, has criticized MLAs for taking a 2.3 per cent pay increase earlier this year.
“Picket lines are our last resort, but we’ve said from the start that wage freezes were simply not fair,” Unifor’s national president said in the release. “Considering the premier gave himself a 2.3 per cent raise this year, Crown workers’ demands are more than reasonable.”
Harpauer’s statement, meanwhile, concludes that the government “continues to believe that a resolution can be found through bargaining in good faith while respecting the resources that belong to Crown shareholders — the people of Saskatchewan.”
WATCH (Sept. 27, 2019): 6 Crown corporations, 1 Crown agency issue job action notice