Unifor has called for binding third-party arbitration to resolve the Crown sector strike which is now entering its third week, after two days of talks leaving a bitter labor dispute in a dead end.
Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor, promised that around 4,500 employees who continue to work at SaskEnergy, SaskPower, SaskWater, SaskTel and SaskTel's two subsidiaries will return to work if an arbitration offer is accepted.
But Crown camp quickly rejected the offer.
"Crowns will not approve binding arbitration," Blair Swystun, president and CEO of Crown Investments Corporation, said in an email to the media. "We believe the agreement can be reached by continuing to negotiate in good faith."
Dias appeared to be speaking directly to Prime Minister Scott Moe through cameras placed in front of him in front of the SaskPower Regina headquarters on Friday afternoon.
"That agreement can be reached in an instant, and we all know that the only reason there is a dispute is because of you, Mr. Premier," Dias said.
He accused Moe of "hypocrisy" for claiming to allow collective bargaining to be revealed temporarily, according to Unifor's often repeated arguments, forcing the Crown employer to hold the line on wage freezes.
The announcement came after two days of talks between Unifor and the Crown businessmen. The government initially considered them promising.
"We are encouraged by productive talks over the past few days and hope that a mutual agreement can be reached with workers from all the Crowns," government spokesman Matt Glover said earlier on Friday.
Dias acknowledged some progress. He said the two sides had reached agreement on "controversial" non-monetary issues such as job security and contracts.
But despite what is characterized as a "minor" move from employers on Thursday, he hinted that the gap remained on wages.
"We are clearly deadlocked," Dias said. "We propose that all our members return to work, so that you agree to the final arbitration and be binding on all unresolved economic issues. "
He proposes that third-party arbitrators will look at inflation rates and "Crowns economic viability."
Crowns has offered a deal that includes two years of fixed wages followed by three years of increase. Unifor has returned with a counter-offer which calls for a three-year successive two percent increase, plus payment at the same time for expired years in several member contracts.
Asked if he had indicated a willingness to move from the position during the last two days of talks, Dias was not committed.
"We have suggested to employers that you need to tell us what you can do," he said.
Dias said Unifor members were prepared to increase the pressure if the offer was rejected.
"We will continue the strike. And, to be honest, we will do what we need to do to get his attention," Dias said.
"We will take our pickup lane. We will increase our mobilization. "
Although Unifor members shouted loudly before and after the announcement, some seemed disappointed after hearing that nothing concrete had been achieved during the recent discussion.
Darren Lang, who wore a T-Rex costume that appeared on Unifor's picket, said he hoped the talks would lead to more conclusive news.
"I think everyone," Lang said.