For Immediate Release
Bob Bymoen, long-time president of the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU), did not seek re-election for the position he has held for almost 20 years. Bymoen has served as president of the union since first being elected in 2002; his latest term came to an end at the 2021 annual SGEU convention which was held virtually from April 29 to May 1.
“It was my great honour to serve as the president of SGEU,” Bymoen said. “I leave the position knowing that I did my very best to represent SGEU members and remained focused on improving working conditions for people across Saskatchewan.”
Bymoen became a member of SGEU at age 17, as an employee of the Ministry of Highways. He soon became active in the union as a steward. and was elected to the SGEU Public Service/Government Employment (PS/GE) negotiating committee in 1994. Bymoen went on to negotiate many collective agreements without the need for job action, including a contract that affected more than 10,000 government workers between 2000 and 2002.
“There were certainly many successes over the years but we also faced tremendous challenges,” Bymoen said. “I’m especially proud of the work I did as a member of the PS/GE negotiating committee, particularly during the economic crisis faced by the province throughout the 1990s. We were able to implement a health plan for members and made good progress on pay equity, two things that directly benefitted a huge number of public service workers across the province.”
Bymoen also made important gains for seasonal and part-time workers that helped them access the health plan and maintain job security – a significant win for those in precarious jobs. As president, he was also influential in helping to open the door to women in trades and other non-traditional employment in government.
“Although it brought challenges at times, I found it very fulfilling as president to meet and bring together a diverse range of individuals from every corner of our province – those from different cultures, backgrounds, ages, genders, interests and occupations,” Bymoen said. “I made many friends along the journey and was able to learn so much from everyone I met as I worked to balance so many different interests under the umbrella of our union.”
More recently, Bymoen is proud of his involvement in the legal fight against wholesale changes to labour legislation brought forward by the Sask Party government. SGEU was one of several unions that joined the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) in challenging the government all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada in defense of workers’ right to strike. Early in 2015, The Supreme Court struck down the government’s Essential Services Act and ruled that the right to strike is protected under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“Although we didn’t succeed with everything we were seeking, this ruling was instrumental in securing workers’ rights in Saskatchewan and it set a precedent across the country,” Bymoen said. “It sent an important message to the government of the day and forced them to amend legislation that would severely limit the rights of workers.”
“It’s been a privilege to work with so many dedicated leaders, activists and staff, not only at SGEU but throughout the labour movement across the province and the country,” Bymoen added. “We learned from each other, we helped each other grow and we came together to fight for what we knew was the right thing to do for working people and our communities.”
“For me, my time in the union was always about the people and improving lives, whether that meant tackling workplace issues or taking on broader social justice issues,” Bymoen said. “I have many good memories of the work I was involved in but what I will always cherish the most is the great mentors and colleagues I had the pleasure of working with, and the wonderful friendships I made through the years.”
“As for the immediate future, I’m looking forward to spending some time with my family now that I’m able to be closer to home at my farm near Simmie in southwest Saskatchewan. Then, I’m excited to be able to tackle new endeavours.”
For more information, contact:
Communications Officer, SGEU