Sask. crop insurance staff back at work under tentative deal

A tentative deal reached Friday between Saskatchewan’s provincial crop insurance corporation and its unionized staff was expected to see the workers end their strike as early as 1 p.m.

The three-year deal, which still must be ratified in a worker vote and is also subject to Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corp.’s (SCIC) approval, is retroactive to Oct. 1, 2009 . It thus expires in just over 15 months, at the end of September 2012.

The 470 workers, who process production insurance and AgriStability program payments for farmers at SCIC’s Melville head office and offices across the province, had been off the job since Tuesday.

The strikers, represented by the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU), had drawn the ire of Premier Brad Wall, who on Thursday had pledged to recall the legislature Monday (June 27) to order the SCIC staff back to work.

Wall said Friday he has now written to the legislature’s speaker, Moosomin MLA Don Toth, to call off Thursday’s request that Toth recall the legislative assembly.

“I know that crop insurance employees would much rather be at work processing claims and helping farmers at this difficult time,” Wall said in a release Friday, referring to heavy rains and flooding that have rendered significant acreage unseedable this spring or unlikely to produce a crop, especially in the province’s southeast.

“This agreement means they will soon be back at work providing those vital services for Saskatchewan producers.”

According to a joint release Friday from SCIC and the SGEU, the deal calls for a 5.5 per cent wage hike over three years, plus an additional 0.25 per cent general wage hike in the third year “in consideration of negotiated efficiencies.”

The SGEU had called for a 7.75 per cent hike over a three-year period, while SCIC had proposed the 5.5 per cent figure.

The deal also provides for an additional “overnight allowance” triggered once staff have had to travel away from home on trips beyond three consecutive days long.

It also calls for SCIC to raise the level of its contribution to the employees’ pension and dental plans.

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