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Union pans Wall's idea of wage cuts, layoffs to deal with Saskatchewan deficit

REGINA — The leader of a union that represents health-care and education workers says wage rollbacks and layoffs will not cure Saskatchewan’s ailing economy.

In media interviews Premier Brad Wall has suggested that public sector workers may be be asked to take less to help tackle the province’s $1 billion deficit.

Barbara Cape, president of SEIU-West, says Wall’s comments show a lack of good faith and deflect responsibility away from the government’s performance in managing the province.

She says the union’s 13,000 members didn’t benefit from the economic boom and shouldn’t be asked to make up the government’s budget shortfall.

The union’s members include people who work in health care, education, municipalities, community-based organizations, retirement homes and other sectors.

Cape says public services and workers are at least as valuable to Saskatchewan as oil and gas companies.

“Threats and austerity measures don’t work for the economy — they cripple it,” Cape said Thursday in a release. “We need to invest in our public health and education systems and give our staff the resources they need to do their jobs well.”

Wall said wages make up 60 per cent of government spending and everything has to be on the table when it comes to filling the huge hole in the budget.

He said some companies in the oil and gas industry are already taking the same approach — less money for everyone so everyone can keep working.