The Sask Party government is trying to sell off our Crowns, cut public services, and demand wage cuts from public sector workers. But that’s not what Saskatchewan is about and it’s not the answer to the mess government created. Strong public services and Crowns have always been key to our economy and growth.
As you might have heard in the news recently, the finance minister indicated that the Saskatchewan government will no longer push for the 3.5% cut for this fiscal year. Your SGEU bargaining committees have been clear. We will not accept the proposed cut in wages. Workers at SaskPower have already voted overwhelmingly against taking such a cut, and other unions across the public sector have made it clear that their members won’t accept it either. But are we in the clear? Don’t count on it. There are plenty of tools left in the government’s austerity toolkit for “finding savings.”
And once again, public sector workers are hearing about wage mandates first through the media, rather than at the bargaining table. We first heard about the proposed 3.5% cut through the news. Now we hear that it’s been postponed – again, through the news. This signals the continued politicization of our bargaining process. It has become a political volleyball for Sask Party leadership contenders – some saying they wouldn’t implement the 3.5% rollback but would find other ways of realizing savings, others saying they would roll back wages and reduce the public service by 5%.
Public sector workers deserve better than political gamesmanship.
Public sector workers’ wages barely kept up with inflation during the boom, but now that the economy has taken a hit, we’re being asked to take a major compensation cut to balance the books?
The government is trying to make the public direct its anger over the deficit at public employees – instead of at the government that got us into this mess. They want to steer attention away from their own scandals, mistakes, and lack of transparency. We have to find some savings, they keep saying – and it’s true. They do. But those savings don’t have to come from the pockets of social workers, health providers, post-secondary instructors or conservation officers.
If the Sask Party were serious about saving money, they would review all contracts with consultants and end those that aren’t benefitting the public. They would stop blocking information requests on financial transactions when the public has the right to know where the money is going.
I still want to know where all the money went. We know millions upon millions were wasted on the LEAN program, the Regina Bypass, the Global Transportation Hub land acquisitions (in which at least two Sask Party donors profited handsomely), the Smart Meter fiasco, the 74 per-cent payroll increase for senior political staff, and the unnecessary hiring of three new MLAs.
And we know that payments on the Regina Bypass are eating up government budgets. Saskatchewan spent $500 million this year alone on this 60km stretch of P3-built roadway while the amount spent maintaining and preserving all other provincial highways was cut back. It’s a safe bet that these aren’t the only way Saskatchewan’s public finances have been squandered in recent years. That’s why the Sask Party would prefer to keep the attention, and the blame, on public sector workers – but we’ll continue to remind the public that it wasn’t us who led Saskatchewan into deficit.
I want to thank all the members who took the time to attend the most recent October 25 Rally to Reverse the Cuts. Your enthusiasm and participation were much appreciated. Still, we need to keep up the pressure. Have you phoned your MLA yet and let them know what the cuts have meant for you and your family? Perhaps they just aren’t hearing from you enough.
We also must remain steadfast in our support for our Crowns. While the partial repeal of Bill 40 (the Crown privatization bill) sounded like a victory, the Sask Party government has still left room for itself to wind down any of our Crowns without any input from the public. Go download the Crown plebiscite, fill it up with signatures, and get it in to the SaskCrowns group.
Finally, I hope you find some time to relax and enjoy the holidays with your loved ones. This has been a difficult year for public sector workers, but we have remained strong and worked hard to protect our jobs and the important services we provide. We have won some important victories, and look forward to more in 2018.
And make sure you check out some of the incredible holiday craft markets this season, and buy local and Canadian-made goods.
Wishing you and yours a happy holiday season,
Bob Bymoen, SGEU President
(306) 522-8571 ext.219