Overhaul of Sask. labour laws gets final OK at legislature

Saskatchewan's omnibus labour legislation has passed third and final reading at the legislature.

Saskatchewan's omnibus labour legislation has passed third and final reading at the legislature.

The new law combines 12 existing pieces of legislation into one.

The overhaul was controversial with labour leaders, some of whom expressed concern that the consolidation would weaken some rights of workers.

The NDP Opposition says the legislation was pushed through with unnecessary haste.

"We know there are hundreds of regulations yet to be written and there was no real reason to get it done before the end of May," New Democrat labour critic David Forbes said.

Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour says the overhaul is "needlessly contentious and unfair."

It says it will have the effect of stripping some working people out of their unions and barring others from joining unions entirely.

But the government said the move modernizes and simplifies the legislative landscape.

Saskatchewan Labour Relations Minister Don Morgan said combining a dozen old laws into one omnibus bill is simpler for everyone.

He said the changes include many advantages for working people.

"You know we've got the new leaves for people who've got a critically ill child or lost a child, organ donation, citizenship ceremony, the indexation of minimum wage," he said.

According to the province, some of the noteworthy elements of the overhaul include:

  • The addition of leave to provide care to a critically ill child as well as leave provisions relating to circumstances when a child dies or disappears due to a criminal act.
  • Providing part-time employees with overtime for all hours worked in excess of eight hours in a day.
  • Clarification that employees are entitled to overtime where the daily maximum hours established by their work schedule are exceeded.  The two schedules provided for in the legislation include hours in excess of eight hours in a day or 10 hours in a day.
  • Requiring employees to provide two weeks written notice of their intention to leave their jobs.
  • Clarification of the definition of employee to make it clear that employees whose primary duties are confidential in nature and directly impact the bargaining unit cannot belong to a union.
  • Requiring unions to provide an audited financial statement to its members and provide unaudited financial statements for each bargaining unit to the members of the unit (unions may provide the information in various means including electronically).
  • Indexation of the minimum wage.
  • Provisions to protect individuals searching for work from mistreatment and fraud perpetrated by unscrupulous recruitment service providers
  • Reduction of the qualification period for maternity, parental and adoption leave from 20 weeks to 13 weeks of service.

The province also pointed out that another law, The Public Service Essential Services Act, is not yet included in the new legislation.

That Act was recently upheld by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal. The essential services legislation spells out which workers are so needed that they cannot participate in a strike.