Labour reps on Minister's advisory committee urge reconsideration of Sask Employment Act

"This legislation will re-set the employment table in ways that the people around the Minister’s advisory committee would not have predicted based on the dialogue.”

Regina (22 Feb. 2013) - Representatives of working people’s organizations, on the Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety’s Advisory Committee, are urging the Government of Saskatchewan to place Bill 85 on a much longer legislative track. The committee members, representing a variety of sectors and organizations, are encouraging the government not to rush passage of the proposed Saskatchewan Employment Act through the spring session of the Legislative Assembly.

From the outset, concerns have been raised about the far-reaching scope of the legislative changes and the timeframe for consultation. “The proposed Saskatchewan Employment Act (SEA), introduced in December 2012, is a sweeping re-write of our labour laws, including, but not limited to, the Labour Standards Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Health Labour Relations Reorganization Act, the Construction Industry Labour Relations Act and the Trade Union Act," said advisory committee member Hugh Wagner.

In the spirit of good faith, labour representatives on the Minister’s Advisory Committee refrained from commenting publicly or prematurely on Bill 85 in favour of conducting a rigorous analysis of the proposed SEA. In the space of the two months or so since the Bill was introduced literally hundreds of hours of study and comparison have been carried out in the interests of due diligence.

“I think it is fair to say that the dialogue in the meetings of the Minister’s Advisory Committee in 2012 was informative, practical and respectful,“ Wagner said. “I also think it is fair comment to say there was a remarkable degree of consensus, amongst those who participated, that the province’s existing labour legislation is functioning as intended and the rights of those affected should not be dramatically altered except where there is agreement for change.”

“We’ve spent a considerable amount of time studying the proposed SEA and despite the apparent goodwill around the advisory committee table, Bill 85 constitutes a wholesale change to labour legislation in Saskatchewan,” said Wagner. “This legislation will re-set the employment table in ways that the people around the Minister’s advisory committee would not have predicted based on the dialogue.”

As a result of careful assessment of Bill 85, representatives of organized labour on the advisory committee have asked the Minister to agree to a comprehensive review to determine how the proposed SEA will change existing legislation, the intent of the changes, how the rights of wage earners and stakeholders covered by the proposed SEA will be altered, and whether there are unintended consequences.

“We’ve proposed a much more extensive work plan and schedule of advisory committee meetings than contemplated by the two meetings scheduled before Bill 85 makes its way back on the agenda of the Legislative Assembly,” said Wagner.” “There is no crisis to fix and no necessity to rush through with an omnibus bill that will likely govern workplace relations for a decade or more.”

“As all of us strive to earn a living and build an inclusive, fair-minded Saskatchewan do we want chaotic labour relations or do we want a balanced and reasonable approach? As drafted, the proposed SEA will give us one thing, but not the other.”

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