Labour law reform: consultation or imposition?
BY ANDREW STEVENS • NOV 3, 2012
Saskatchewan’s labour laws are being rewritten. Already, the governing Saskatchewan Party has made it more difficult for workers to unionize, and has given employers more freedom to interfere during union campaigns. As the first province to grant public servants the right to unionize, Saskatchewan was once home to Canada’s most progressive labour legislation. It still boasts one of the highest union density rates in the country. But this could change. Is Saskatchewan now the setting for a Wisconsin-style assault on trade union rights? Will the comprehensive changes to labour legislation that unfold in the province be a model for right-wing parties across Canada that seek to curb the political and economic influence of unions?
When the right-wing Saskatchewan Party was first elected in November 2007, unions anticipated a fight. Under a highly popular and charismatic leader, Premier Brad Wall, the Sask Party was quick to act on these expectations. Part of their sweeping changes involved the removal of three senior members of the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board (SLRB) before the end of their appointments in March 2008.
The Canadian Association of Labour Lawyers (CALL), the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, and other trade unions accused the government of jeopardizing the SLRB’s status as an independent and impartial tribunal. Kenneth Love, a lawyer who had represented employers before the Board in a decertification campaign, was appointed as the new SLRB Chair, drawing the ire of organized labour. Considering that the Labour Board is responsible for ruling on unfair labour practices and union certifications, the change was rightly contested by unions.
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