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Saskatchewan's biggest union will fight unpaid days off for workers

Last Updated Feb 16, 2017 at 7:40 pm MDT

REGINA – Saskatchewan’s biggest union says a possible plan to force public servants to take unpaid time off won’t solve the province’s financial woes.

Finance Minister Kevin Doherty has floated the idea as a way to help lower the province’s $1.2 billion deficit, saying each day off could save the province $11 million.

But Bob Bymoen, head of the Saskatchewan Government Employees Union, said they will fight the move because it doesn’t address what he says is the province’s real problem — overspending.

“Why would we believe him for one moment that the layoffs will stop because we take a day off without pay?” said Bymoen. “I don’t know why he thinks it’s OK to break that contract with the people of this province, but he can’t break a contract with a company in France.

“In my heart, if I thought myself taking a day off without pay would save this province, I’d gladly take the day off but it’s like giving money to a cocaine addict — it won’t change anything because they haven’t even admitted that they’ve got a problem with how they’re spending money.”

The sentiment was echoed by NDP MLA Warren McCall, who blames government fiscal mismanagement for the deficit.

“This is a government that has built out administration and the top end of bureaucracy in healthcare, in education, while the frontlines have gone wanting,” he said.

On Wednesday, Doherty said the government wants to ensure that workers are fairly compensated, but it also needs to hold costs steady “without a major impact to our public service.”

Wage rollbacks, layoffs in health care and education and tax increases are also being considered.

The government is trying to save money because of a big drop in revenue from oil and gas, potash and uranium. Tax revenue is also lower than forecast and crop insurance claims are up $250 million because of a late harvest.