Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Saskatchewan Crown workers establish common front

February 1, 2011

Garry Hamblin, COPE
REGINA — Unions representing more than 9,000 employees at the province's major Crown corporations are banding together to express frustration with what they're hearing during bargaining.

The unions, whose members include workers at SaskTel, SaskPower, SaskEnergy and SGI, have formed a coalition dubbed the "Common Front."

Group spokesman Garry Hamblin said the government seems intent on wage increases in the Crown sector of 1.5 per cent, two per cent and two per cent.

"It's been made obvious at our various tables that there's a mandate, a one-size-fits-all mandate," said Hamblin, who is president of the Canadian Office and Professional Employees' Union (COPE) local 397 which represents some SGI employees.

"We just think that given the success of the Crowns, that the people who helped create that success should be recognized. One-and-a-half, two and two doesn't really, in our view, adequately recognize the hard work that our members put in to make these operations a success."

Some unions have been bargaining for more than a year without seeing anything "substantial" on the table, Hamblin said.

Mike Woods, executive director of communications for Crown Investments Corp., the holding company for the province's commercial Crowns, acknowledged there is a "framework" for negotiations in which the companies are working.

"It's not much different than other frameworks that are out there," Woods said, referring to an agreement reached last spring for about 10,000 workers across provincial government ministries.

The Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union agreed to a contract that includes wage hikes of one-and-a-half per cent this year and two per cent in each of the next two years. In accepting the deal, SGEU said the contract also offered employment security as the Saskatchewan Party government seeks to trim the size of the civil service.

Woods said it's best if the Crown sector unions can sit down with their respective management to bargain rather than negotiate in the media.

"Each Crown is slightly different ... ," Woods said. "There's the framework but there's room within in it to make adjustments and to recognize different factors."

Hamblin said that by joining forces, the unions are doing what the management of Crown companies already do.

"Certainly when we started comparing notes and sharing information amongst ourselves, we could see that there was a lot of common approaches being taken by management at various tables. It seemed like it was appropriate to come back with similar responses to those issues as they came up," Hamblin said.

A news release from the Common Front said that members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) recently rejected an offer from SaskPower management, with the union local contending the offer wasn't competitive with wages elsewhere in Western Canada.

Read more: http://www.leaderpost.com/business/Sask+major+Crown+corporations+form+coalition+express+frustration+about+wage+increase/4206542/story.html#ixzz1Cm3RaMdp

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