Pay hikes core of new contract for hundreds of unionized SaskTel workers

REGINA – Hundreds of unionized workers at SaskTel have voted in favour of a new three-year contract with their employer.

Members of three Unifor locals ratified the deal in voting that ended Wednesday.

SaskTel says in a release that the package, which covers more than 3,000 workers in a variety of departments, calls for hourly pay to increase by 1.75 per cent retroactive to March 13, 2016.

Another increase of 1.65 per cent will kick in next March, with a 1.2-per-cent hike to follow in the final year of the agreement.

Unifor says in a statement that there are also pension plan improvements, along with stronger language covering job security and conflict and grievance resolution.

The union’s bargaining committee had recommended members support the deal.

“This new three-year agreement allows us to continue to work with Unifor to focus on operating successfully in this ever-changing and very competitive industry,” said SaskTel president and CEO Ron Styles in a statement.

Unifor national representative Susan Saunders said the deal provides a framework for members to provide the level of service the people of Saskatchewan “expect and deserve.”

“This agreement also underlines the importance of keeping SaskTel as a public asset. As a Crown corporation, it can serve by keeping utility bills down while generating much needed government revenue,” she said in the union’s release.

Ratification of the contract comes after Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said earlier this week that he wants to know how vulnerable SaskTel is as the last provincially owned telecommunications company.

Wall said the utility has asked for a risk analysis following the takeover of Manitoba Telecom Services (TSX:MBT) by Bell, known as BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE).

The premier said that sale will make SaskTel the only small regional player left standing and it has to share its infrastructure with private carriers.

He wants to know if the MTS takeover means anything in terms of SaskTel’s competitiveness, but pointed out the risk analysis does not mean the province is eyeing a move to sell SaskTel, which is protected under legislation.

Wall said he can’t sell SaskTel without campaigning on the idea, as was recently done with a plan to sell government liquor stores, or without having a referendum.

SaskTel has more than $1.2 billion in annual revenue and about 1.4 million customer connections.