Saskatchewan

Wall weighs in on union dues debate

Questions about possible changes to labour laws got Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall briefly musing about union members paying dues "voluntarily" — only to have Wall later pour cold water on that idea.

Questions about possible changes to labour laws got Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall briefly musing about union members paying dues "voluntarily" — only to have Wall later pour cold water on that idea.

Although it's not in the party's platform, on Monday reporters asked Wall about the possibility of legislation being introduced that might let unionized workers opt out of their unions and not pay dues — something labour groups have been worried about.

In Saskatchewan, as in other provinces, employees in unionized shops typically have their dues deducted as a "checkoff" on their salary — and as a condition of employment.

Wall, who was in Emerald Park to announce plans for new day care spots, began by saying the labour law changes reporters were asking about are "hypothetical" and not a "top-of-mind" issue with his party.

When asked another question about possible "opt out" provisions, Wall said if changes would improve "accountability" and "if it was something that was being requested by groups, stakeholders, I think we'd look at that perhaps."

That was followed by Wall musing about unions and union dues.

"Whether it's a check-off or whether they send the cheque in voluntarily to pay for their dues, I assume those union members are supportive of what their unions are doing and would want to continue to support those efforts," he said.

Later, Wall went on Twitter to try to clarify his comments.

"Could have been clearer: no opting out of unions or dues," Wall said in a tweet. "Open to unions collecting their own dues."

Some Saskatchewan labour groups have expressed concerns that the Sask. Party plans to roll out new labour legislation after the Nov. 7 election.  They note that following the 2007 election, the Sask. Party government introduced major changes to labour laws, including essential services legislation that prevents certain public sector workers from going on strike.

One group, the Saskatchewan Provincial Building & Construction Trades Council, said earlier this month that Wall has refused to say where he stands on a number of contentious issues — including so-called "right-to-work" legislation that could make union dues voluntary.

However, Wall later said Monday he is definitely not proposing right-to-work legislation.

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