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‘Clearly at an impasse’: No deal reached after talks continue between Sask. Crowns and union

SaskWater employee Brent Stephansson, left, walks a picket line near the SaskEnergy building on Broad St. in downtown Regina Oct. 4, 2019.
SaskWater employee Brent Stephansson, left, walks a picket line near the SaskEnergy building on Broad St. in downtown Regina Oct. 4, 2019. Michael Bell / The Canadian Press

No deal has been reached after talks resumed Friday between the union representing thousands of striking Crown-utility workers in Saskatchewan and their employers.

“We’re here today because we are clearly at an impasse,” said Unifor president Jerry Dias late Friday afternoon. “This is a strike that is clearly, clearly on the shoulders of Premier [Scott] Moe.”

“Once again, we got the standard letter back from the premier and the two ministers saying, ‘we apologize for not meeting, we don’t think it’s appropriate for us to meet with Unifor. We would prefer to allow the collective bargaining process basically to move forward.’ Well we know that that’s nonsense,” he said.

Unifor’s executive assistant to the national president said the union spent Friday in discussions with several of the Crown utilities.

“We are proposing that you agree to final and binding arbitration on all of the outstanding economic issues,” Dias said. “We are once again imploring on you to meet with us to find a solution, because nobody in this province believes for a moment that you are not in complete control of this situation – because you are.”

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READ MORE: Sask. Crown labour dispute continues at Directwest

The provincial government issued a statement about Crown sector bargaining on Friday evening.

“The Crowns will not be agreeing to binding arbitration,” read the statement from Blair Swystun, president and CEO of Crown Investments Corp.

“We believe agreements can be reached by continuing to bargain in good faith.”

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The talks come after the Saskatchewan government said the union made the request for informal discussions on Thursday.

The government said there were no formal meetings set for the bargaining units.

Dias said the union will continue to push for the government to adhere to their proposal.

“I am going to be sending you a letter immediately and we are expecting an expeditious response because the quicker you get back and agree that this makes sense – because we are clearly at an impasse – our members will go back to work and let a third party make a final and binding decision,” Dias said.

About 5,000 workers at six Crown corporations including SaskPower and SaskTel walked off the job on Oct. 4 after contracts disputes with the government.

READ MORE: Upwards of 1,000 striking Crown workers rally in Regina

The union says the issue is wage freezes, but the government said workers are being offered a five per cent increase over five years starting in the third year.

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Last week, the Saskatchewan Water Security Agency reached a tentative deal with Unifor Local 820, which has 138 members.

In the letter from Dias, he said: “the hard work at the bargaining table has resulted in all non-monetary items being agreed upon by the parties,” meaning the only thing left to work out is wages.

-With files from The Canadian Press