Wall asks public sector to tighten belts

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In two media interviews, the Premier suggested that public sector workers may have to choose between layoffs and salary cuts

Premier Brad Wall called on government employees to consider salary cuts to help shrink a ballooning deficit, according to year-end interviews with the Canadian Press and the CBC.

Saskatchewan’s budget deficit is now over $1 billion, and the Premier noted that human resource costs make up about 60 per cent of government spending.

“Can we actually reduce the cost of government without dealing with that?” Wall asked in his interview with the CBC.

“Everything must be on the table.”

The Premier suggested that public sector workers should show “good faith” during salary negotiations. He told the Canadian Press that government employees should “realize that even what’s being paid now might not be sustainable.”

“At some point,” he said, “I think we have to determine in the long-term interest of the province, do we engage in layoffs or rollbacks?”

That kind of talk has unions worried.

Helen Sawatsky, president of the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region’s CUPE chapter, said it’s not the first time she’s heard the government hint at a hard bargaining position. Her union’s contract is coming up for negotiation in the coming spring.

“When he said he’s hoping that we’re more flexible, I kind of have an idea what he’s thinking about,” she said. “I believe there’s a chance of them coming for a pay cut or different language in our collective agreement.”

She said that facilities across the health region are already short staffed, and further cuts will reduce the quality of care…

For more on this story please see the Dec.2 29 print or e-edition of the Daily Herald.