“Public employees spend their wages in their local communities, and their purchases help stimulate economic activity that benefits everyone. Austerity agendas that hurt families also slow economic recovery." — Bob Bymoen, SGEU President
Regina (24 March 2017) — Public services and the Saskatchewan families who rely on them continue to pay the price for the Saskatchewan Party government’s shameful mismanagement of the province’s finances, according to the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union (SGEU/NUPGE).
More than 1,900 positions cut already, workers now brace for more
“Saskatchewan people and the public employees of this province did not get us into this mess, yet we are forced to accept the consequences of government’s mishandling of taxpayers’ money,” says Bob Bymoen, SGEU President.
The 2017–2018 provincial budget cuts jobs in crucial areas where workers meet the basic needs of Saskatchewan people, including in the Ministries of Highways, Education and Environment. In total, there is a net loss of 111 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions, which includes some previously announced reductions.
“Saskatchewan public services have already been cut to the bone, leaving gaps in the workforce and chronic understaffing in vital areas, like child protection and correctional services. More than 1,900 government jobs were cut between 2010 and 2014. Now, workers struggle to deal with unmanageable workloads, and families who need services suffer the consequences,” says Bymoen. “Additional cuts will place even more strain on overburdened staff and the people they serve.”
Public service employees spend in communities, but with job cuts, communities suffer
On top of an ongoing cascade of job losses, the public service is being targeted for even more harmful cuts.
“If a threatened 3.5 per cent wage cut is imposed on public service workers, they will be much worse off than before the beginning of the resource boom,” Bymoen points out. “Wages for government employees have not kept up with the cost of living. In real-dollar terms, government workers already take home less today than they did a decade ago. A further wage cut would be excessively punitive.”
Public service jobs and wages stimulate growth. “Public employees spend their wages in their local communities, and their purchases help stimulate economic activity that benefits everyone,” he adds. “Austerity agendas that hurt families also slow economic recovery,” notes Bymoen.
Young people, laid off workers to suffer under post-secondary cuts
Cuts to post-secondary education that will affect Saskatchewan Polytechnic and the province’s regional colleges, will hurt young people, and those who lost their jobs in the economic downturn. “Why would you erode funding for post-secondary education at a time when we need to support skills training to equip people to prepare for a future in an increasingly competitive economy?” asks Bymoen.
“Substantive cuts to Ministry of Justice Community Services, which funds community-based agencies, suggest that vulnerable and at-risk citizens will lose important support and advocacy services,” Bymoen adds.
Selling off revenue-generating assets costs communities
"Giving away revenue-generating public assets, like liquor stores, is another financial mistake. Liquor privatization alone will cost the province $115 million in public profits in the first 5 years alone," he adds.
“Government needs to start managing more effectively, and it should start with a review of all contracts with consultants and private contractors to assess the real cost and value to the province. Any contract that is found to be inefficient should be immediately canceled.”
“Saskatchewan people expect their public services and Crown corporations to be there when they need them. It’s time to stop the cutbacks and privatization, before it’s too late,” Bymoen says. “It’s irresponsible for this government to put the well-being of today’s families and future generations at risk.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. ~ NUPGE