From The StarPhoenix:
The contentious Bill 85 — the Saskatchewan Employment Act — has passed a third and final reading in the legislative assembly, overhauling and melding 12 pieces of legislation into one omnibus law.
Two components of Bill 85 have been the subject of court battles for the past few years, as unions questioned the legality of both essential services legislation and the Trade Union Amendment Act. Unions have said they may appeal a Saskatchewan Court of Appeal decision upholding those laws to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Unions have also criticized the speed with which Bill 85 has moved through the legislature, as well as the number and content of regulations yet to be written.
Saskatchewan Government and General Employees Union (SGEU) president Bob Bymoen has said the new legislation will make it more difficult for workers to form a union, and will erode weekends and standard hours of work.
“There is no substantial improvement for workers’ rights in this bill,” Bymoen has said.
Now, there’s going to be mountains upon mountains of nuances that will be fleshed out when the regulations are written and parts of it will be good, so let’s not go absolutely nuts quite yet. Having said that, it’s safe to say that Saskatchewan workers and organized labour are now weaker and managers and businesses are now stronger. And sadly, that may well be what most Sask voters–who, I suspect, are ironically mostly NOT employers–want.
Shortly before the legislation was passed, Simon Enoch of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives summed it up like this:
The government of Saskatchewan is currently undertaking a controversial overhaul of the province’s labour legislation into the mammoth omnibus Bill 85. But those that might be concerned about the rather rash decision to overturn 107 years of labour legislation in the period of a few months need not worry, because what the Saskatchewan government is actually doing is modernizing our labour laws. That’s a relief, “modernizing” has such a new shiny ring to it! Who could be against “modernizing” anything? This legislation must really be cutting edge stuff, thinking outside-the-box, labour legislation 2.0 and all that! So what innovative and pioneering changes are in this legal basket of advanced modernity?
Well the main change is that Bill 85 will reduce statutory protections for workers and undermine collective bargaining rights. That means that workers will have less protection in regards to work breaks, overtime, holidays, scheduling etc. In addition, given new employee categories contained in the legislation, many workers that were previously protected by a collective agreement may find that they no longer are.
Wait, this sounds very un-modern doesn’t it? When did workers in Saskatchewan last have the pleasure of not being protected by the eight-hour-day? That would be 1947, a time most people would agree is not exactly “modern” (rural electrification would wait until 1949).
More later, and in Thursday’s the print edition — including what I promise will be a more flattering photo of Labour Minister Don Morgan.