Union for government workers accuses province of unfair labour practice

Union files labour complaint in Saskatchewan

REGINA — The union representing Saskatchewan government workers has filed a complaint with the labour relations board that argues the province is subverting the bargaining process.

The Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union says its unfair labour practice challenge is in response to government plans to roll back wages and benefits for public-sector workers.

Last week, Premier Brad Wall announced a 3.5 per cent cut to compensation costs across the public sector.

SGEU president Bob Bymoen says the government is attempting to dictate the terms of contracts and that’s a breach of the bargaining process.

“Close to 80 per cent of our membership has an open contract with the government. We’re trying to negotiate the terms and conditions of employment for these workers, and we’re finding it almost impossible to do that, you know, have an honest discussion with the government’s representatives, while the premier and the finance minister are out making these announcements,” Bymoen said Wednesday.

“We have an expectation that discussions about pensions and health plans and wages and benefits and salaries will be negotiated at the table and not arbitrarily implemented.”

The complaint also claims the province did not act in good faith when it announced Monday that the cleaning of government-owned buildings would be privatized and told janitorial staff to reapply for their jobs with private contractors.

The government says contracting out the cleaning work will save $3.5 million a year.

All the measures come as the province tries to tackle a $1.2-billion deficit.

Bymoen says it’s an attack on some of the most vulnerable, lowest paid members of the public service and a breach of the province’s employment laws.

Finance Minister Kevin Doherty disagrees.

“We have not prescribed anything with respect to how this compensation reduction is to be achieved,” Doherty said Wednesday at the legislature in Regina.

“We’re asking the employer groups that there are any number of ways to achieve this at the bargaining table. Please get to the negotiating table as quickly as you possibly can to engage in those kind of discussions to see what can be achieved.”

Doherty says a letter that was sent to unions regarding the cut was vetted by Ministry of Justice officials to make sure the province was complying with the law.

 

Jennifer Graham, The Canadian Press

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