After a long, cold winter, we're finally seeing the signs of spring and that means crocuses start popping out of the soil, farmers are getting ready to be out on their fields, and budgets were delivered by our federal and provincial governments.
The provincial budget highs and lows
I was cautiously optimistic at the legislature when I heard some of the promises made by the finance minister. The government appears to be finally listening to the concerns of our members and the general public about the harm inflicted by severe cuts to public services and staff over the last several years. The Sask Party has committed additional funding in a number of areas that will impact our members and the services they provide. This includes more money for new staff in corrections and additional funding for some CBOs and service providers working with people with intellectual disabilities. However, as we’ve come to learn with this government, the devil is in the details.
Only two days after budget day, the public learned that government is eliminating funding for Cornwall Alternative School, which has provided education services and support for at-risk youth in Regina since 1972. This was an abrupt and unexpected move that was made without consultation. The much-needed support that Cornwall provides to at-risk youth will no longer be available after June – when government plans to pull the school’s funding – unless alternative funding is found.
So, once the government’s spin on its so-called good news budget fades away, we will watch closely to see how the budget unfolds over the next several weeks and months. And, we will continue lobbying this government to provide adequate funding for the important services the public expects and deserves and reverse the cuts that hurt the most vulnerable.
Working to reach fair contracts for members
Another area of disappointment continues to be the lack of progress at most of our bargaining tables, a situation facing most of the public-sector unions in our province. Our PS/GE bargaining unit is still in negotiations on an Essential Services Agreement, which must be in place prior to any job action. We are more than frustrated by the continued hard line shown by government when it comes to a fair and reasonable wage offer.
After signing a Memorandum of Agreement in early March, our Health Providers bargaining unit launched a series of information meetings and ratification votes with members. Our partners in the health coalition, CUPE and SEIU-West, are holding similar meetings with their members. The results of the vote will be known in mid-April.
Several other bargaining units are currently at the bargaining table, and I want to send out my appreciation to the members and SGEU staff who are working diligently to negotiate new contracts that improve the lives of our members. If you have any questions about your negotiations, please contact the chair of your bargaining unit.
SGEU Standing Committees in action
Our union’s Standing Committees are also hard at work representing you, and you’ll be hearing and seeing more of their plans at our upcoming convention. I want to give a special mention to the recent work of the SGEU Women’s Committee as this is a busy time of year for them. The committee and other SGEU members participated in local activities as part of the global Women’s March in late January. Members of the committee also attended the NUPGE Women’s Conference in February, which is held every five years, and involved strategizing about and discussing issues important to women. Finally, the group held a highly successful dinner on March 15 in Regina to celebrate International Women’s Day, with a record attendance of over 150 people listening to keynote speaker Barb Byers and raising money for the Moose Jaw Transition House.
Our SGEU Annual Convention on the horizon
I’m looking forward to the SGEU convention taking place in Regina this year, from April 24 to 27. This annual gathering is a great opportunity to reflect on the past year, and discuss what we want to accomplish in the future. It’s also a time to renew old friendships, meet new people and learn more about each other and our commitment to SGEU and the labour movement. I want to thank the convention planning committee for their time and effort in organizing a convention filled with interesting speakers, time for debate, and a chance to have fun while gathered together with over 300 SGEU members. We will ensure there is coverage on our website and social media platforms throughout the event, and delegates will report back at sector, unit and local meetings after the convention.
Please keep an eye out for information about a series of town hall meetings we are setting up later this spring. We are also working with the Regina & District Labour Council on a May Day parade and rally to be held on May 1 in Regina, with more details to follow in the coming weeks.
My door is always open
My plan for the spring and summer is to continue meeting more of you in your communities and at various events around the province. In the meantime, if you have questions or would like to speak with me, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com or 306-775-7219.
Bob Bymoen, President