REGINA (CP) — The Saskatchewan government says six Crown corporations have signed tentative agreements with the union representing 5,000 striking workers, and the union says workers will begin returning to their jobs on Monday.
Unifor and the Crown Investments Corporation announced the deals on Sunday.
Both sides say details of the tentative agreements won’t be released until they are voted upon by members over the next few weeks.
“This was an historic and yet complicated round of bargaining and the bargaining committees will be recommending members ratify the tentative agreement reached today,” Scott Doherty, an assistant to Unifor’s national president, said in a news release circulated Sunday.
The Crown corporations say in a news release that return-to-work schedules will begin Monday, but it could take a few days to return to normal operations.
“These agreements were reached because dedicated teams were determined to achieve agreements that are fair and beneficial to both the employees and the corporations,” said Blair Swystun, President and CEO of Crown Investments Corporation.
The tentative deals brings an end to a 17-day strike which saw employees from Crowns like SaskPower, SaskEnergy and SaskTel on picket lines.
Unifor had said the main issue was an impasse over the government’s offer of a five per cent pay increase over five years starting in the third year, which the union said amounted to an unacceptable two-year wage freeze.
The national union didn’t endorse an earlier tentative agreement reached between Unifor, Local 820 and the Water Security Agency because it said it included the two-year wage freeze.
Reached late Sunday, Doherty said negotiators “beat the mandate” but wouldn’t elaborate.
“I’m not going to get into details because our members need to see it first but we believe we definitely beat the mandate,” Dias said.
“That doesn’t mean the two zeroes don’t exist, it just means that we found ways to beat the mandate.”
Doherty said most workers would go back Monday, while others would return to their jobs Tuesday. Everyone will be back this week, he said.
Late last week, the government rejected the union’s request to resolve the pay dispute through binding arbitration, prompting the union to escalate its actions through the weekend.
They included distributing leaflets at SaskTel dealers across the province to encourage the customers to take their business elsewhere, as well as bolstering the picket line at the Poplar River power plant in Coronach, Sask., where they said they would only allow essential service workers to enter or leave.
Doherty said the breakthrough in negotiations likely occurred Saturday evening when he said one of the employers was creative about how to reach a collective agreement. The idea was then used as a template for agreements with the rest of the Crowns, he said.
“We’ve been at this since yesterday afternoon and pretty much doing it all night and all day today,” Doherty said.
The Crown Investments Corporation said workers would receive more information later Sunday from management about their schedules.