Strike begins for workers at 7 Sask. Crown corporations

Originally Published by CBC News 

Union says 5,000 workers will be on strike, all Sasktel stores will be shuttered

Workers at seven Saskatchewan Crown corporations are on strike this morning.

It’s one of the largest public sector strikes in years and affects around 5,000 employees from SaskTel, SaskPower, SaskEnergy, SaskWater, the Water Security Agency and two SaskTel subsidiaries.

Some workers in Regina hit the picket line at around 7 a.m. CST.

The workers are represented by Unifor. The union has been in contract negotiations with the provincial government for months.

Job action started on earlier this week with a “work to rule” campaign after the union and the province were unable to reach a deal.

Now, a full-scale strike has begun.

Some services protected by essential services

Essential services agreements with the Crowns mean some unionized members will remain available during the strike to protect the public from potentially dangerous situations and respond to emergencies.

For example, essential services would apply to something like SaskPower’s outage centre, or SaskTel’s 911 service.

SaskPower spokesman Joel Cherry says the Crown utility has designated 14 staff to operate the outage centre for the entire province in the event of a strike.

Sasktel stores closed during strike

SaskTel issued a statement that all stores will be closed during the labour disruption.

Customers can change their wireless plans, add-ons, maxTV theme packs, channels, features or Internet plans online at mySasktel. And for home services changes people can call 1-80-727-5835. For wireless services such as new activations, people are told to go to a SaskTel authorized dealer.

SaskTel isn’t able to transfer services or activate new home services, they said in a statement. Anyone returning equipment is told to mail them from a post office to the SaskTel Distribution Centre and pay their bills online, by mail or at a bank or credit union.

Union upset over wages

The union has previously said the current province offer includes a wage freeze for employees. In an email sent on Saturday, a government spokesperson disputed that, saying its offer is a five per cent raise over five years, not a wage freeze.

The government is  offering a deal that would include two years of zero per cent increases, followed by a one per cent increase, a two per cent increase and in some cases, another two per cent increase.

Unifor National President Jerry Dias said they want a two per cent increase each year to go with inflation.

When responding to questions on the labour dispute on Thursday, Premier Scott Moe said  a strike is not in the general interest of the public.

“It’s also our hope that this will be averted, it’s our hope that everyone would sit at the bargaining table, the negotiating table,” Moe said.

“Ultimately that is where the best agreements come to, and we look forward and hope that will be the case in this instance.”

Unifor representative Chris MacDonald said the union hasn’t had communication with the government since last Friday, adding it is highly unusual to not hear from the other bargaining party for that long.

Dias confirmed he had not heard from the government since last week. As of Thursday morning, Unifor had not heard from the government about any bargaining talks.

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