Saskatchewan Crown strike comes to an end

Tentative agreement reached over the weekend, workers to resume jobs Monday after 17-day labour disruption

Crown employees wave to a passing vehicle while walking the picket lines outside the SaskPower offices in the south end of Prince Albert. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Saskatchewan’s Crown strike appears to be over.

Both Unifor and the Crown Investments Corporation announced Sunday afternoon that a tentative agreement had been reached between the two parties. Striking workers began to return to the job Monday, though it will take a few days to resume normal operations everywhere.

Details of the tentative agreement were not disclosed as the deal has yet to be ratified. Voting on the tentative deals will take place over the next few weeks.

The tentative agreement ends a 17-day strike that saw almost 5,000 unionized workers at SaskEnergy, SaskPower, SaskTel, SaskWater, DirectWest and SecureTek walk off the job after failing to reach an agreement on a new contract.

Workers at the Water Security Agency had also participated in the strike. They had previously reached an agreement with their employer.

The agreement came one day after Unifor, which represents the workers, began to escalate its strike action. Unifor had requested that the Crown corporations participate in binding arbitration. The Crowns refused.

On Saturday, the Poplar River power plant in Coronach was behind reinforced picket lines. Only essential services staff were allowed through. SaskTel dealers across the province were also picketed by Unifor members asking customers to take their business elsewhere.

As of Friday afternoon, the two sides had agreed on several contentious non-monetary issues, such as the use of contractors, but were still far apart on salary.

In its press release, Unifor thanked the public, other unions and Unifor members across Canada who showed support on picket lines in more than 80 locations, including in prince Albert.

“Solidarity and the support from Unifor members at all six Crowns along with those who joined our picket lines from across the province were key to achieving this agreement,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor national president in a press release.

“I want to thank Ian Davidson, President, Unifor Local 649, Dave Kuntz, President, Unifor Local 1-S, Penny Matheson, President, Unifor Local 2-S and Doug Lang, President, Unifor Local 820 for showing tremendous resolve and leadership to stand together and fight back against the regressive Moe government mandate to achieve a fair collective agreement.”

 Scott Doherty, the executive assistant to Dias, called the job action “a historic and yet complicated round of bargaining.” He said the bargaining committees are recommending that members ratify the tentative agreement.

“Unifor members proved that they are vital to their communities and the Saskatchewan economy,” added Chris MacDonald, assistant to the national president.

Crown Investments Corporation president and CEO Blair Swystun thanked the bargaining teams who worked to reach an agreement.

“These agreements were reached because dedicated teams were determined to achieve agreements that are fair and beneficial to both the employees and the corporations,” he said.

“On behalf of the leadership at each of the Crowns and CIC, thank you to the Crown bargaining teams and Unifor’s negotiators who have worked tirelessly to reach settlements.”

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe took to Twitter to announce the “very good news.

“Thank you to the bargaining teams on both sides for bargaining in good faith and working hard over the weekend so that the employees of these Crowns can be back at work early this week,” he wrote.

“Thinking of all the workers I met on picket lines who will be very happy to get back to work,” wrote NDP leader Ryan Meili on his Twitter page.

Saskatchewan Crown strike comes to an end“(Crown corporations) matter and so do the people who keep them running. I’m glad to see the strike over and hope the agreement is a good one for all involved.”