Saturday, March 16, 2013

Saskatchewan government urged to bring proposed labour law changes into line with accepted Canadian standards

By James Clancy
March 13, 2013

“There is no reason that Saskatchewan labour law needs to be so radically different than the Canadian legislative norm in the treatment of supervisory employees,” says Clancy.

The Saskatchewan government’s proposed labour law changes are a radical departure from accepted norms across Canada and violate standards set by Canadian and international law, according to the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).

“The proposed Saskatchewan Employment Act deviates from long-established labour law principles in many areas, including unilaterally excluding workers from union membership and taking away workers’ rights to belong to the union of their choice,” says NUPGE National President James Clancy.

Thousands of employees in Saskatchewan could lose their union rights and protections because the proposed changes allow for an unprecedented expansion in the number of employees who can be excluded from union membership. An employee who gives policy advice, is involved in budget planning or implementation, or business strategic planning, for example, will not be allowed to belong to a union.

This attempt to remove workers from their union goes far beyond what is acceptable in other provinces. “To exclude so many people from the right to unionize, with so little justification, is a clear violation of Canadians' right to freedom of association as defined by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and validated by the Supreme Court of Canada,,” NUPGE told the Saskatchewan government in a submission on the proposed Saskatchewan Employment Act.

“There is similarly no reason that Saskatchewan labour law needs to be so radically different than the Canadian legislative norm in the treatment of supervisory employees,” says Clancy.

Employees with supervisory duties will be forced to leave their current union under the proposed legislation. The definition of supervisory tasks is wide-ranging, so that potentially thousands of employees could be affected. Yet, labour boards in other Canadian provinces have found that there is no conflict between the job duties of supervisors and union membership, according to the NUPGE submission.

“Supervisory employees have been part of regular bargaining units in Saskatchewan, indeed in Canada, for decades without causing any serious operational problems. It is difficult to find a rationale for this change, which will hurt workers who have established rights and protections in their existing bargaining units. This will also fragment units, eroding workers’ bargaining ability and leading to potential conflicts and costly duplications,” Clancy says.

In its submission, NUPGE identifies a number of other key areas in which the proposed legislation goes far beyond commonly-accepted standards that have evolved to ensure fairness and balance in workplaces.

“We urge the government to amend the proposed Saskatchewan Employment Act to bring it in line with accepted Canadian norms. We also call for a more reasonable period of time to adequately review this omnibus legislation, which is a sweeping overhaul of all of the province’s labour laws. When citizens stand to lose basic rights there can be no justification for rushing the consultation process,” adds Clancy.

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