More Saskatchewan Crown agency workers back strike threat in contract talks

REGINA — Unionized workers at six Saskatchewan Crown corporations and one Crown agency have voted in favour of a strike mandate to back demands for a new contract.

Their union, Unifor, says ballots were counted Thursday at SaskEnergy, SaskPower, SaskWater and the Water Security Agency.

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The four join SaskTel, SecurTek, and DirectWest in a position to legally strike.

Unifor says the government’s mandate of a two-year wage freeze for public-sector workers is a sticking point.

It says if a collective agreement is not reached by next week, job action will begin at SaskTel on Sept. 30.

Finance Minister Donna Harpauer says in an emailed statement that Crown agencies have contingency plans in the event of a strike and will use management staff to continue operations.

The seven agencies employ between 4,300 and 4,400 people. Unifor said the wage freeze is an "insulting monetary package" for them that will almost certainly result in job action if no flexibility is shown.

"(Premier) Scott Moe saw fit to give himself a 2.3 per cent wage increase, so it’s certainly unfair to ask Saskatchewan’s hard-working Crown workers to swallow a wage freeze," said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor's western regional director.

The union also said some progress has been made on non-monetary items but a top priority — the reduction of contractors used by SaskTel — remains an outstanding item.

Unifor national president Jerry Dias is expected to be in Regina next week to join negotiations with all seven Crowns.

Harpauer said legislation is in place to ensure that essential services will continue to be provided to the public.

She also said the government respects the collective bargaining process, including the right to strike.

"We encourage all parties to negotiate in good faith at the table." (CJME, CTV Regina, CJWW)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 20, 2019.

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