The Saskatchewan government will look to reduce salary costs across the public sector by about 3.5 per cent, starting in 2017-18.

Premier Brad Wall, cabinet ministers and MLAs will take a 3.5 per cent pay cut, starting April 1.

“We’re going to lead by example,” Wall said Tuesday.

Wall says staff in the premier’s office and minister’s offices will also be required to take nine unpaid days off a year, which will reduce their pay by about 3.5 per cent. The reduction for MLAs and political staff is expected to save about $500,000 a year.

Wall expects the 3.5 per cent savings in salary costs to be achieved through negotiations with unions representing government workers or through employer policy for out-of-scope employees.

The premier says there are many different ways to achieve those kinds of savings across government.

“We looked at a number of options in terms of reducing the overall public-sector cost by 3.5 per cent, and just feel it’s important that we not prescribe specific options from the centre, which arguably, we could have done as a part of a budget bill,” Wall said.

“We do think it’s important to allow the collective-bargaining process to take place. So, we’ve set this as an overall goal for the government’s negotiations with all of its public sector unions and the Crowns, as well.”

Wall says the savings can come from any number of different measures and options.

“It doesn’t have to be a salary piece,” he said. “We’ve talked in this province about furloughs in the last little while, there’s overtime issues; there’s any number of things within collective bargaining, and combinations of those things, that might reach the 3.5 per cent.”

Interim Saskatchewan NDP Leader Trent Wotherspoon says the party will accept the 3.5 per cent pay cut for MLAs. But the Opposition is calling on the government to also cut allowances for cabinet ministers by at least 20 per cent.

“It’s the cabinet that got us here. They made the choices; they’re the ones that aren’t being accountable; they’re the ones that signed us on to the bad deals, the scandal, and so, they need to take some responsibility,” Wotherspoon said.

“A base cut of 3.5 (per cent) to MLAs, we’ll accept that. But we expect on the additional allowance that cabinet receives to see a much bigger hit to those that signed taxpayers on to the bad deals. “

Wotherspoon says the number MLAs in Saskatchewan needs to be reduced by at least five.

“This is the same government that jacked up the number of MLAs, and the cost in doing so, at the same time as they’re ramming forward cuts for Saskatchewan people,” he said.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says it supports the government’s decision to reduce Saskatchewan’s projected $1.2-billion deficit by trimming compensation costs.

“A dip in pay is never fun, but it’s a reality that many families across the province have been dealing with during the past few years and bureaucrats can’t be immune to that reality,” the federation’s Prairie director, Todd MacKay, said in a news release.

“We have to get the deficit under control and the only realistic way to do that is by controlling compensation costs.”