SGEU will continue to advocate for positive changes in labour laws

"We already have six or seven layers of upper and middle management above most unionized workers in government. Why would we need to take another layer of employees out of the union and add them to this managerial bureaucracy?" asked Bymoen.

logo of the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union (SGEU/NUPGE)Regina (05 Dec. 2012) - The Saskatchewan Government and General Employee's Union (SGEU/NUPGE) will be assessing new labour legislation introduced on December 4 and will continue to advocate for changes that will make life better for working families.

"We are pleased that government is giving us the opportunity to continue to make recommendations. Now that we have the details of The Saskatchewan Employment Act, we will be able to offer constructive criticism on the wide range of changes being put forward," said SGEU President Bob Bymoen.

Some changes, such as reducing the qualifying period for maternity, parental and adoption leave, are welcome. In other areas, more needs to be done.

Bymoen pointed to the decision to index the minimum wage to both the cost of living and the average hourly wage as a first step. "Any change that helps the province's lowest paid workers is positive. However, we urge the government to first raise the minimum wage rate to a reasonable level, so that even regularly scheduled future increases do not keep working families in poverty."

SGEU/NUPGE has flagged some proposed changes that have the potential to undermine worker rights, weaken unions and increase conflict in the province's workplaces.

"One significant change that has the potential to fragment unions is a provision to exclude employees with some supervisory duties from membership in their current union," Bymoen said.

"Legislating large numbers of employees out of scope will erode unions' ability to bargain effectively, and may also deprive union members of their Charter right to join a union of their choice," he said.

Rulings by the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board have made it clear that only those with the authority to discipline and the power to hire and fire should be out of scope. The vast majority of public service workers who have supervisory duties do not have these responsibilities.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has also stated it is unlawful to move a significant number of employees out of scope if the net result is to weaken the bargaining unit by depriving it of a substantial proportion of members.

"We already have six or seven layers of upper and middle management above most unionized workers in government. Why would we need to take another layer of employees out of the union and add them to this managerial bureaucracy?" asked Bymoen.

Another proposed government change is to allow for the decertification of a union at anytime. Currently, union members can apply to decertify their union during a 30-60 day window each year.

"The existing law balances the rights of members to seek a change in union representation with the need for workplace stability. The proposed change will undermine a union's ability to focus on its number one priority - serving the needs of its members. Time, energy and resources have to be diverted to fending off decertification attempts. Members are better served when there is some certainty in their workplace," said Bymoen.

"We plan to work with government to address these and other concerns in the months ahead. We want to make the collective bargaining process work effectively and ensure that the rights of working people are protected as we move through this revision of our province's labour laws," Bymoen concluded.

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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

 

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