Unifor strike affecting multiple Crown corporations could start Sept. 30

A strike mandate from members of the Unifor union in Saskatchewan means multiple Crown corporations could see job action in the coming weeks.

The government announced on Thursday that Unifor employees at SaskTel, SecureTek, DirectWest, SaskEnergy, SaskPower, SaskWater and the Water Security Agency have received a strike mandate from its members.

Chris MacDonald, who is assistant to Unifor national president Jerry Dias, said the province could have avoided job action if it eliminated a wage freeze for provincial employees, which he called "absurd."

Currently, SaskTel is offering the Unifor members a three-year deal, which includes a zero per cent increase in the first two years, and a one per cent increase in year three. 

MacDonald said the zero per cent increases are not an option and the union called the offer "insulting."

"I've reached out to the government and told them this is not going to be resolved until they step up to the plate and fix this," said MacDonald.

Negotiations will continue on Sept. 26 and Sept. 27, but if they fail, Unifor members at SaskTel are set to begin job action at 12:01 a.m. on Sept. 30, with action including "work to rule" and bans on overtime, said a statement posted online.

It indicated a last resort would be strike action.

CBC

Premier Scott Moe "is steering Saskatchewan towards a major service disruption," Dias said in the statement.

"All because he refuses to grant Crown workers the same pay increase that he gave himself."

Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said the strike mandate could affect 4,300-4,400 union employees in an emailed statement issued Thursday afternoon. 

She noted while there is a potential for several bargaining units to go on strike at the same time, there is legislation in place to ensure essential services are still provided.

"We respect the collective bargaining process, including the right to strike," she said.

"We encourage all parties to negotiate in good faith at the table. Crowns have business continuity plans in place in the event of job action and will utilize management staff to continue serving Saskatchewan people." 

Dias will be attending the negotiations at the Sept. 26 round of bargaining.