On behalf of SGEU, Happy New Year!
The start of a new year is always a good time to reflect on the challenges faced in the previous year, and to celebrate our successes. It’s also a great time to look at the opportunities that lie ahead.
This past year, we saw our provincial government make decisions that weren’t in the best interest of working people. 2017 kicked off with Premier Scott Moe promising to cut the public service by 5 per cent, and we responded.
By spring, Moe had given himself and Saskatchewan MLAs a 3.5 per cent wage increase, which saw their annual salaries rise from $92,816 to $96,183. Moe also approved an additional $3,000 annual bonus for 13 legislative secretaries. These salary increases came at a time when many Saskatchewan families were struggling under rising costs, and when government was offering zeros to our members at the bargaining table.
But government’s two-tiered compensation system did not end there. At the bargaining table, we were repeatedly told that government had no money for public sector employees. Meanwhile, senior Crown corporation executives received substantial wage increases; compensation costs for senior managers at SaskPower increased by 19.8 per cent, and executive costs at SaskTel rose by 14.8 per cent.
So, we spoke up again, and held this government to account. In October, we held a rally at the Legislature that saw hundreds of Saskatchewan people asking “Where did the money go?” The rally, along with our billboards that asked the same question, also sparked a province-wide conversation about where the money didn’t go. We know that it didn’t go to working families or the most vulnerable people in this province, as nearly all of us continue to struggle today from government cuts and the increased cost of living.
Despite all this, I’m approaching the new year with optimism. Every day, more and more people are expressing their dissatisfaction with this government’s decisions. I see it in letters to the editor and on social media. I hear it on radio talk shows and on coffee row. I see it at rallies, where people are coming out to demand that government put Saskatchewan people ahead of high-paid executives and out-of-province corporations. This gives me hope that the provincial government will start listening to the people they serve.
The upcoming provincial budget will be the first one created under Premier Moe’s direction. It’s an opportunity for him to show compassion for the most vulnerable in our province, by reinstating programs such as the hearing aid plan and rental housing supplement. It’s a chance to announce a $15 minimum wage and to mandate fair wage offers at our bargaining tables. We must continue to speak out and call on government to put Saskatchewan people first. I have no doubt that our individual voices, and our collective voice as a union, will encourage government to forge a new path.
Fighting for fair contracts
This summer, the PS/GE bargaining unit received a strike mandate from its membership. The negotiating committee returned to the table in October, when talks broke down. Since then, the PS/GE bargaining unit has been negotiating an Essential Services Agreement, which must be in place before job action can be taken. The committee is working to achieve this agreement as quickly as possible and is taking steps in preparation for potential job action. If you have any questions, please contact your local representative.
My door is always open
This fall, I had the honour of attending the sector AGMs and BGMs, where I was able to reconnect with old friends, meet many new members, and listen to your ideas and concerns. This was a great opportunity to get feedback about our union’s activities and priorities. I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible throughout the coming year. In the meantime, if you have questions or would like to speak with me, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 306-775-7219.
Best wishes to each of you and your families as we enter 2019. I hope the year ahead brings you peace, prosperity, and happiness!
Bob Bymoen, SGEU President