Despite numerous requests from NUPGE and SGEU, the Saskatchewan minister of labour has refused to make public his government’s reply to the ILO on NUPGE complaint against restrictive labour laws.
Regina (25 June 2009) – For the third time in the past eight months, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has had to suspend its examination of a complaint made against two restrictive labour laws passed by the Saskatchewan government of Premier Brad Wall in May 2008 because the government has yet to provide the ILO with all information so it “can examine the case in full knowledge of the facts.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), on behalf its Component, the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union (SGEU/NUPGE), filed a complaint in June 2008 with the ILO. The complaint argues that Bill 5, An Act respecting Essential Public Services and Bill 6, An Act to amend the Trade Union Act, undermine Saskatchewan workers' right to freedom of association.
NUPGE recently learned the ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) suspended its examination of the complaint earlier this month.
In its 354th Report, which was adopted by the ILO’s Governing Body on June 19, the CFA noted that it could not conclude its examination of the complaint because the government of Saskatchewan “had sent partial information on the allegations made.” The CFA further stated that it requests the government of Saskatchewan “to send the remaining information without delay so that it can examine the case in full knowledge of the facts.”
This is the third time that the CFA had to postpone its consideration of the complaint in the past eight months. The first time was in November 2008 because it had not received a response from the government. The second time was during the March 2009 meeting of the CFA. It had received the government’s partial response too late to be considered at that meeting.
NUPGE national president James Clancy wrote to the ILO earlier this week asking to be informed about the specific nature of the information the CFA has requested from the government of Saskatchewan.
“We are somewhat concerned about the accuracy of the government’s partial reply or future replies to the CFA regarding the allegations made in our complaint,” noted Clancy. “The concern stems from the fact the Saskatchewan minister of labour has refused to make public his government’s reply to the ILO, despite at least three requests to do so from the president of our Saskatchewan Component, the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU/NUPGE) and myself.”
SGEU president Bob Bymoen wrote to Rob Norris, the Saskatchewan minister of labour, earlier this week suggesting that the government has adopted “a deliberate strategy in dealing with the ILO that involves delay, evasiveness and a lack of transparency.”
“This concerns my union as it goes against the well respected ILO principles of social dialogue and tripartism,” he added.
Bymoen noted in his letter that since January of this year both he and Clancy had written to Norris on three occasions requesting that his government make its response to the ILO available to SGEU and NUPGE. “As of yet, you have not responded to our repeated request,” he said.
'I again ask'
“Mr. Minister," Bymoen wrote, "I again ask you to provide the National Union and SGEU with a copy of all correspondence your government has sent or will send to the ILO regarding the complaint our National Union filed in June 2008. We view any attempt to withhold this information from our union and from the general public as a serious disregard for the process of justice, transparency and open government.”
Bymoen also noted in his letter to Norris that NUPGE’s complaint against the Saskatchewan government is a matter of public record. “Surely it does not bode well for your government if it’s not prepared to make public its response to our allegations that its new labour laws (Bills 5 and 6) violate international Conventions to which Canada and the Government of Saskatchewan are signatories to,” he said.
Clancy added, “How can our union and the people of Saskatchewan know if this government is responding truthfully to the ILO about the allegations we made in our complaint? The government’s continual refusal to make its response to the ILO a matter of public record obviously shows they have something to hide.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE