The battle over the solution to Saskatchewan’s deficit problem is heating up.
Last week, the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE) and others that represent workers in Saskatchewan Crown Corporations and government departments took to the highways in a campaign to stop Bill 40 and recently proposed cost-cutting measures aimed at public servants, including monthly unpaid days off now being referred to as Wallidays.
Bill 40, officially The Interpretation Amendment Act is the government’s controversial legislation that will create a new definition for the term “privatize,” which critics say will effectively allow the government to sell of 49 per cent of Crown Corporations without seeking the approval of the people of Saskatchewan through an election or referendum.
Kim Wilson, president of COPE Local 397 (Regina), along with Dave Kuntz, president of Unifor Local 1-S and Rhonda Derby, a COPE union representative and member of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), were in Yorkton February 18 for a town hall session at St. Mary’s Cultural Centre. Wilson said the town halls are designed to educate the public about the ramifications of Bill 40.
“People aren’t aware of it or the consequences,” she said. “We’re hoping the people of Saskatchewan realize that we need to stop Bill 40, stop the privatization of Saskatchewan, stop the sell off of our Crowns, stop the cutbacks and the rollbacks.”
In addition to Yorkton, the organization has already done sessions in Prince Albert and Tisdale. Town halls are scheduled for seven other cities over the next month.
COPE is also promoting a rally being planned by the Saskatchewan Government Employees Union (SGEU) and Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) on March 8 in Regina.
The unions are organizing buses from Prince Albert, Melfort, Saskatoon, Yorkton, Swift Current, Moose Jaw, Weyburn and Estevan to boost numbers for the protest.
“We did not cause this problem,” Wilson said. “We have legal contracts and we will not agree to re-opening our collective agreements.”
The plan is to meet at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum at 11:30 and march on the Legislature for a rally at Noon on March 8, the second Wednesday of the month.
Wilson said the town hall event in Yorkton was well received.
“It went very well,” she said. “We were very happy with the turnout.”
Bill 40, officially brought forward by Minister of Justice and Attorney General Gordon Wyant, passed first reading October 26, 2016 and is currently awaiting second reading.