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SaskTel employees exploit working conditions on the day of the launch of negotiations



Given that SaskTel workers are preparing to negotiate a new contract, the president of their alliance has caught Regina with some fiery words about Prime Minister Scott Mo.

Jerry Diaz, the national president of Uniform, said workers would not accept what the government has so far pushed – nor will they come up with an arbitrary solution.

"The only agreement we will accept is one that we mutually agree on the negotiating table," Diaz said.

"Today we are here to tell the Prime Minister: We know how to solve, but we also know how to dance, so how do you want to do it?"

Citing past statements and the experience of other negotiating tables, he said the provincial government was trying to "negotiate" a flat-rate agreement in two years, followed by slim increases of 1% and 2%.

Diaz said the chances of doing so are "zero."

The government replied that it could not comment on its negotiating position, but said that "there was no mandate".

Jerry Diaz, the national president of Uniform, speaks at a "Workers' Stand" rally held at the Hotel Delta on Saskatchewan Disk before the start of the negotiations.

BRANDON HARDER /

Regina Leader post

Diaz spoke at a conference room in a hotel packed with SaskTel employees on Tuesday. Payment was not their only appeal. Some said Leader-Post were dissatisfied with the conditions for the work of the Crown, which is repeatedly shown on the lists of top employers in Canada.

But some workers say that times are changing, with lost jobs and a transition to informal employment and a contract. Existing informal employees say their hours have dropped. The company requires flexibility, some say, without giving it in return.

SaskTel's director, Doug Barnett, opposed the lack of pressure to add contract work, but he said the cyclical nature of the business requires unusual work.

"You need to match the workforce to suit your work demand," he said.

Immediately after the rally, union leaders went to exchange suggestions with management. Bernet said that the subject of everyday labor did not appear.

As of June, all six collective agreements with Ununor locals in the Crown sector will be expired, including one (SaskEnergy), which has been waiting for more than a year. Diaz said he had a silver line: Workers are stronger when negotiating as a united front.

"Regardless of the fact that wage increases will be for one, it will be for everyone," he said.

Dave Kunts, president of Unifor Local 1S, speaks on the podium while local members listen to a rally at the "Crowned Workers' Stand" held at the Delta Hotel on Saskatchewan Disc before the start of the negotiations.

BRANDON HARDER /

Regina Leader post

Agreements were also concluded with six other local residents of non-Unifround.

Diaz agreed that working conditions in SaskTel would be a problem as the negotiations take place. Dan Bailey, a national envoy to Unicor for Saskatchewan, said that in recent years they have been seen as a transition to "insecure employment".

Hundreds of full-time employees are lost "through exhaustion," according to Uniform.

SaskTel's data suggest that the change, albeit real, is subtle. In 2015, 81.3 per cent of Crown employees were classified as full-time full-time employees. By 2018, it fell only slightly, to 79.8 percent.

But it was a smaller part of the reduced workforce. Over the same period, the total number of full-time equivalents decreased from 3,827 to 3,569.

The share of call with part-time workers increased from 13.1 percent to 14.3 percent in the meantime.

Bailey said less hours mean fewer benefits. But the smaller burden does not come with more flexibility, according to Uniform's representatives, because everyday employees are obliged to accept about 80 percent of the shifts offered to them.

According to Bailey, it's about family life.

"It's terrible," he said. "How to hire a detector for your child when you can not tell them that you will be there every day?"

Dave Kunz, president of Uniform Local 1C, stands on the podium and is preparing to speak at a rally at the "Workers' Stand" held at the Delta Hotel on Saskatchewan Disc before the start of the negotiations.

BRANDON HARDER /

Regina Leader post

Burnett said SaskTel is striving to ensure that all employees are treated well and offer competitive pay, benefits, and working conditions. He said that everyday employees are aware of the potential for fluctuating hours when they are hired.

According to him, SaskTel remains a great place to work.

"When I see what SaskTel provides in comparison to other companies, I believe we are a major employer," he said.

But one SaskTel worker at the rally deals with it. Insisting on anonymity, he said his job as an unofficial case made him "the worst of the worst." He said he made a decent salary four years ago, but now he only works three shifts a week.

The employee said that it was proven impossible for him to reserve time for rest. And he sees little hope of improvement. His department added only a few full-time jobs during a four-year stay, the employee said.

"It's terrible," he said. "It's so unfair".

Bailey suggested that the changes were fueled by pressure from the government to find cost savings to reduce deficits, pointing to the now deserted push to cut 3.5 percent of public sector compensation.

Burnett acknowledged that the company was always trying to find savings, but said it did not differ from any employer.

"We are running the business in order to provide a strong financial return," he said. "So our plan does not call for a reduction in the size of the workforce, but it is primarily guided by our business needs."

He said he may or may not continue, depending on factors such as revenue growth and demand for fixed lines.

awhite-crummey@postmedia.com


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