SGEU seeks strike mandate from provincial employees

SGEU seeks strike mandate from provincial employees

A bargaining unit representing 12,000 government workers is asking its workers to vote for a strike.

The public service unit of the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees Union (SGEU) says talks with the provincial government have reached an impasse and a strike vote is necessary.

"Our goal is to achieve a fair collective agreement for the people who provide important front-line public services," said negotiating chair Barry Nowoselsky. "Their work and commitment to Saskatchewan families should be valued."

The Saskatchewan Party government announced a 3.5 per cent wage rollback to public sector employees in the 2017 budget. However, that plan did not appear in the 2018 budget.

According to the union, talks broke down earlier this month. The union said wages and pensions remain the most contentious issues.

Bargaining for a new contract began in 2016. The strike vote will be held throughout July.

The public service unit represents thousands of government workers, including social workers, lab technicians and corrections officers across the province.

"We are prepared to return to the bargaining table at any time," said Nowoselsky, "but without a strike mandate, I doubt we can make any meaningful progress."

The union said a strike vote does not mean there would be immediate job action.

The Opposition NDP said it hopes an agreement can be reached before job action starts.

"This is going to be really damaging to the province if we see job action," said labour relations critic Nicole Rancourt. "I think this gives the government some time to bring back to the table a fair negotiation."

The provincial government also said it hopes an agreement can be reached with the union through bargaining, but did not comment further.

In 2006, roughly 1,000 SGEU members went on strike for six weeks after an agreement could not be reached with the province. Many of those workers were correctional centre workers and staff at youth facilities.