Fall is a busy time as we all get adjusted to the new season, including tidying up our yards and gardens, harvesting the crops, and generally preparing ourselves for the coming colder weather. I want to wish all farmers and their families safe and smooth days ahead, and safe travels to everyone who will be out on snow- and ice-covered roads in the coming months.
The staff at the three SGEU offices and your elected leaders continue to work on your behalf to provide support, advice and advocacy at your workplace on a daily basis. This is in addition to ongoing contract negotiations taking place for many of our bargaining units, where we keep pressing for fair and reasonable contracts for our members. We have recently ratified a number of important collective agreements for bargaining units including the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority, H.E.L.P. Homes of Regina, the Society for the Involvement of Good Neighbours (SIGN), the RM of Meadow Lake, Cowessess First Nation and the Moose Jaw Women’s Transition Association.
Unfortunately, we have not seen as much progress as we would like at most of our bargaining tables. Other public sector unions across the province report they are experiencing the same situation. In most cases, the sticking point in negotiations is related to monetary issues, which is directly related to the Sask Party government’s budget and spending choices.
The government continues to state it’s looking for cuts to help balance the budget and, as a result, we are being pressured to make concessions and take wage rollbacks. On the other hand, in one of its more hypocritical moves, it was recently revealed that the government’s senior Crown executives received hefty wage increases – in one case as much a 26 per cent. With these pay hikes, several Crown executives made over $500,000 last year. This is in addition to the 85 per cent increase in compensation for the premier’s political staff since 2009 and the quiet reversal of the 3.5 per cent MLA salary reduction. This two-tiered compensation system is simply unacceptable; it’s time for Premier Scott Moe to stop pushing a double standard where the rich get richer and the working-class get nothing but additional taxes and costs.
For SGEU’s largest bargaining unit, the Public Service/Government Employment unit, you have likely heard that negotiations reached an impasse again this summer, resulting in a strike vote where PS/GE members gave a strong strike mandate to their bargaining committee. This does not mean there will be job action, but it sends a strong, clear message to government that our members are serious about achieving a fair and reasonable collective agreement that protects their rights and improves their wages and benefits. Right now, the committee is negotiating an essential services agreement, which is a requirement under the Saskatchewan Employment Act. The committee is also willing to return to the bargaining table as long as the employer is willing to negotiate. PS/GE members will be notified as soon as any new information is available.
For bargaining units that are dealing with an employer which receives government funding, such as those in the health care system, the education system, and others, we are feeling the impact of provincial budget cuts or freezes to these organizations. It’s just more evidence that the Sask Party government is failing to provide appropriate funding and resources, forcing workers and everyday people across Saskatchewan – often those who are the most vulnerable – to bear the brunt of government’s bad decisions.
In addition to contract negotiations and our regular day-to-day work, it’s shaping up to be another busy fall with events taking place throughout the season. We are sending 75 delegates to represent SGEU at the upcoming SFL annual convention in Regina from October 24-27. Most of our sector biennial or annual meetings take place this fall; I would encourage you to attend so you can learn more about what’s happening in the union, ask questions, elect leaders to represent you and have a say in how your union operates. The union takes direction from the membership so it’s important for you to participate and stay engaged.
I hope you will join us at a rally for accountability at the legislature at 12 noon on Thursday, October 25. It’s a chance to ask the government Where Did the Money Go? After so many bad decisions and terrible choices during years of record revenues, the Sask Party government is now cutting programs, services and jobs. SGEU has been speaking up loud and clear with billboards, ads, action campaigns and more to put pressure on the government to be more responsible when it comes to spending, to ensure workers are compensated fairly for the important services they provide across the province, and to put services and programs in place for those who need them the most.
I’m pleased to see that SGEU’s social media presence continues to grow; it’s an excellent way for members and the public to keep up-to-date on what’s happening at SGEU. I encourage you to give us a like or a follow on our Facebook page and Twitter account. Also, be sure to check the SGEU website for news and information updates. Providing us with your current home/personal email address for our database will help us reach you quickly when we have important news to share – you can add your email by contacting MIS@sgeu.org.
In closing, I want to express how proud I am to be your president. My job allows me to meet so many dedicated and hard-working people who make a real difference in the lives of Saskatchewan people. I want to thank all members for the work you do across our province. I hope you’ve had a chance to see our latest TV ad, which helps remind the public and especially the government about who we are and the important role our members play at work and in our communities.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families! Many of us have much to be thankful for, but I would encourage you to reach out to those who may be facing challenges or going through a low point at this time. We are so much stronger when we support each other and stand together.
Please feel free to contact me with your questions, concerns and ideas. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 306-522-8571 ext 219.
All the best,
Bob Bymoen, SGEU President