Sask. government says 3.5% wage rollback was 'disruptive' to labour talks

Saskatchewan's finance minister says the government's proposed 3.5 per cent rollback of public sector salaries is "no longer on" the bargaining table.

Finance minister says proposed 3.5% wage cut is 'no longer on'

Finance Minister Donna Harpauer encouraged public sector unions to get to the bargaining table. Thirty-four of 39 unions have expired collective agreements.

Saskatchewan's finance minister says the government's proposed 3.5 per cent rollback of public sector salaries is no longer on the bargaining table. But there is one exception.

On Wednesday, Donna Harpauer said if a union left the table and has not returned, the government's 3.5 per cent wage rollback may still be there.

She encouraged all unions to return to negotiations. If they did, government negotiators would be busy because 34 of 39 public sector unions have expired collective agreements.

"I think the 3.5 per cent was disruptive to that relationship. I think this is the fourth time I've stood in front of cameras and said, 'It's no longer on,'" Harpauer said.

More than 65,000 workers are represented by 39 bargaining units. None of the over 33,000 public employees in health care have a new deal.

'Let's negotiate'

"We're not going to negotiate with ourselves, so put someone out there, and let's negotiate," Harpauer said.

In March 2017, the Brad Wall government asked public sector employees to take a 3.5 per cent pay cut in order to trim spending.

He said at the time, "I'm not asking anyone to consider anything that I'm not prepared to do. It's important that we get ahead of expenditures."

The premier and MLAs took a one time 3.5 per cent cut, which lasted for the budget year 2017-18.

NDP MLA Warren McCall said he does not think the message, of 3.5 per cent being off the bargaining table, is being communicated by cabinet ministers to their bargaining teams.

I don't know if they're trying to wait people out at the table but the fact that the vast majority of the collective agreements are still expired is not by accident.- NDP MLA Warren McCall 

"I don't know if they're trying to wait people out at the table but the fact that the vast majority of the collective agreements are still expired is not by accident," McCall said.

Harpauer said negotiated deals have an effect on the bottom line. She said for every one per cent salary increase across the public sector, the cost to government is $75 million dollars.

About the Author

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the Provincial Affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for 11 years. He hosts the CBC podcast 'On the Ledge'. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca