SIAST, union disagree over tentative agreement

Union holds ‘informational pickets’ to bring attention to dispute
||Last Updated: 10/20/2011

The union representing staff at the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST) says “government decision-makers are standing in the way of new tentative agreements.”

Members of the SIAST professional services and academic bargaining units held “informational pickets” at the school’s four campuses on Oct. 19 to inform the public about progress of the unresolved labour dispute.

“Government is working behind-the-scenes to block further discussions between the union and SIAST management," according to the union’s negotiating committee chairperson Tracey Kurtenbach. "SIAST management is not honouring its obligation — agreed to in the mediator's report — to continue to work with the mediator to help settle unresolved issues.”

About 2,000 Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union (SGEU) members returned to work after a six-day strike in September. The union says they returned to work believing that a mediator’s recommendations would lead to new tentative agreements, but that no progress has been made.

"There are key issues that remain unsettled. We can't even tell our members who will get wage increases as a result of market adjustments, and who won't," said SIAST Academic negotiating committee vice-chairperson Joyce Hobday. “SIAST management, taking direction from government officials, is refusing to meet with us, with or without the mediator.”

SIAST insists that discussions cannot continue until both bargaining units ratify their agreements. The SGEU has yet to take the tentative agreement to its members for a vote.

“There is no obligation on SIAST, or any rationale, to proceed with implementation of the Agreement until such time as the Academic Bargaining Unit has ratified the Agreement,” SIAST associate vice-president of human resources Gary Eales wrote in a Sept. 30 letter to the union. “SIAST will not proceed with implementation until the Academic Bargaining Unit has ratified the Agreement, and accordingly there will be nothing for the mediator to resolve in the implementation of the recommendations until ratification has taken place.”

A similar letter was sent to the professional services bargaining unit.

During negotiations, wages were the main issue in the dispute.

The last contract expired in June 2009.

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