Saskatchewan Strike Puts Phone Company On Hold

The Militant, Vol.60 no.18, 6 May 1996

After 13 months of working without a contract, 3,600 members of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada struck Saskatchewan Telephone (SaskTel) April 10. Many of us have never been on strike before, said Mary Lou Jones, a long-distance operator. We're novices, but morale on the line is good.

The walkout is the first full-fledged walkout against this provincial phone company. A 68 percent majority voted to take strike action.

SaskTel workers, who are paid less than their counterparts in other regions of Canada, are demanding parity. The company is offering a wage increase it claims is 3 percent. Strikers dispute that figure, pointing out that part of the raise has already been lost since the workers have been without a contract.

Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow has been quoted in the local press telling strikers not to be greedy. City workers, on the other hand, are bringing coffee and donuts to the picket lines to support the telephone strikers, who are pulling 20 hours' picket duty a week. Strikers suspect the company of hiring students prior to the strike as managers. Managers are receiving $50 per hour for overtime in addition to their salaries and cab fare. SaskTel claims no replacements are being used.

The union is organizing a strike solidarity rally April 23 in the provincial capital of Regina.