In a January 17, 2017 decision, the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board (SLRB) denied an employer’s attempt to remove supervisory employees from a unit of CUPE at the Saskatoon Public Library. In its revision to Saskatchewan’s labour relations legislation in 2014, the government crafted a new, supervisory class of employee.
As Rankandfile.ca co-editor, Andrew Stevens, wrote in 2014, some of these changes were pulled from Grant Devine-era legislation at the behest of Saskatchewan’s business lobby during the review of labour legislation back in 2012. Saskatoon Public Library Board v. Canadian Union of Public Employees Local No. 2669 will function as an important test case for these provisions within the Saskatchewan Employment Act, specifically Section 6-1(1)(o). Spearheading the Library’s application is Kevin Wilson (QC), a well-known employment lawyer in Saskatchewan, who some sources suggest is the architect of this and other employer-friendly provisions in the SEA.
Had it been successful in its application, the public sector employer would have been enabled to remove “supervisory” workers from their respective bargaining units. The SLRB resolved that permitting this would have been inconsistent with the intention of Saskatchewan’s Wagner-inspired labour legislation, namely the fundamental principle that employees “have the right to organize in and to form, join or assist unions and to engage in collective bargaining through ‘a union of their own choosing’.” The SLRB recognized that had it allowed the the Library’s application, it would be permitting the Employer to factor into that choice. As the Board decision reads,
“The disharmony that results from the interpretation espoused by the Applicant and supported by the City of Regina, would permit an employer, as in this case, to seek, of its own accord, an amendment to an established bargaining unit prescribed by this Board without the participation of the certified trade union or the employees within that bargaining unit, is, we submit, clear.”
This should be considered an important victory for unions in their efforts at confronting the SEA. Still, supervisory exclusions and irrevocable elections on new certification orders are permitted. On these grounds unions have hinted at another constitutional challenge against the government’s employer-friendly labour legislation.
Organized labour’s right to strike success in SFL v. Government of Saskatchewan is fresh on the mind of union leaders in the province, especially considering Brad Wall’s threat of public sector layoffs and wage roll backs in a new era of austerity. But considering the importance of this fight for employers, an application for judicial review of the Board’s decision could very well be in the works. That means that labour battles in Saskatchewan will continue to be fought in the court room for the foreseeable future.
Click here for the full decision, click Saskatoon Public Library Board v. Canadian Union of Public Employees Local No. 2669.
Click here for a summary of the Order.