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Employees at Saskatchewan Telecommunications Holding Corp. are giving Unifor’s bargaining team a strong mandate to take strike action, if necessary, in the quest for a fair contract.

The provisions of the contract include mental-health days, domestic violence leave and part-time hours, says Dan Bailey, national representative for Unifor. “We’re focusing in on mental health in the workplace, obviously because it’s good for the employees and good for the employer,” he says. “Work is becoming more and more challenging these days with the work-life balance, and all those sorts of things is what we’re gearing at.”

Read: Staples Canada earns mental-health award for focus on early prevention

Unifor is specifically aiming to negotiate mental-health language into the collective agreement, including the addition of mental-health days, and then build upon the mental-health standards set out by the CSA Group, says Bailey.

Apart from the mental-health provisions, many others are under consideration, including paid domestic violence leave. In 2017, Saskatchewan introduced a provision to allow a maximum of 10 days of unpaid leave, whether the violence is directed at the employee personally, their children or a person for whom an employee is a caregiver, regardless of whether that person and the employee have lived together at any time.

“We’re trying to negotiate those types of improvements just to make the work-life balance better,” says Bailey.

Read: What do Canadian provinces offer around domestic violence leave?

The union is also pushing for more hours for part-time employees, he adds. “We have permanent part time and casual part time, and we want to guarantee getting hours up for our part-time people. So there’s the CSA aspect and mental health, but there’s also just your work stuff as well.”

Hundreds of union members have participated in strike vote meetings across the province and SaskTel’s subsidiary, SecurTek, voted in favour of a strike last month, according to a press release, which noted no job action will occur pending the outcome of bargaining meetings scheduled for mid-August.

“Our members have made their intentions very clear with this vote,” said Chris MacDonald, Unifor’s assistant to the national president, in the release. “They want a fair contract. And if an agreement can’t be reached, the bargaining committee now has the ability to call a strike.”

Read: New Brunswick’s new domestic violence leave takes effect

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