Sask. government to appeal labour ruling

The Saskatchewan government says it will appeal a court decision that struck down its essential services legislation as unconstitutional.
A Queen's Bench judge ruled in February that Saskatchewan's Public Service Essential Services Act infringes on workers' rights by limiting their ability to go on strike if they are declared essential. (CBC)

The Saskatchewan government says it will appeal a court decision that struck down its essential services legislation as unconstitutional.

The law places limits on the number of public service employees who can go on strike during a labour dispute.

A recent Queen's Bench decision said the law fails in part because the province didn't properly consult labour groups. The judge said the law will remain in effect for now, giving the government a year to fix it.

Labour Relations Minister Don Morgan said the government remains committed to essential services legislation, but is fighting the court ruling because the decision says there's now a Charter of Rights protection for workers to go on strike.

"The biggest concern that we have with the judgment is that it creates a constitutional right to strike, which doesn't exist anywhere in Canadian jurisprudence, so we feel we wanted to appeal that aspect of it," Morgan told reporters on Monday.

The government had strongly hinted earlier this year that it would appeal.

Larry Hubich, president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, said he is disappointed but not surprised by the government's appeal.

"There's always the possibility of an appeal, and so you never bet that it's over until it's over," he said.

Morgan said he still wants to work with the province's labour groups to improve the essential services legislation.

"We've had informal contact from a number of labour leaders," he said.

"We've said, 'Well, we know that it exists in other jurisdictions, we'd like to work with you on it.' So we're hopeful that we can do that."

Hubich said he will take part in the province's consultation process related to the essential services legislation, even with an appeal before the courts.

"We'll be there in good faith. I can't comment on the government," he said. "We will be there, putting forward our ideas."

The province says it hopes to have new legislation drafted by the fall.