Media Release: Safety Protections Lost in the SEA

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…

For Immediate Release: February 28, 2013

Saskatoon – Members of SEIU-West continue to share their concerns with the Government regarding Bill 85, the new Saskatchewan Employment Act (SEA). SEIU-West would like to caution all working people and their families, as this Bill has the potential to upset their work/life balance and to hold them personally financially accountable for health and safety issues at work.

“The public should be wary of the new SEA,” said Barbara Cape, President of SEIU-West. “We have had but a few short months to do comparisons and there are significant changes undertaken in this Bill. You cannot go from twelve pieces of legislation which make up over 950 pages, and has the security of both history and precedent, to one omnibus Bill of 184 pages without losing something – so far, what we see is that the worker is losing many choices and rights.”

SEIU-West members see this piece of legislation as an iceberg; it may seem harmless on the surface, but there is so much more underneath that is potentially harmful. SEIU-West members have been a part of this consultation process from the start with the suggestion to government that they “Keep Saskatchewan Moving Forward”.

“There are many articles in the SEA that weaken existing protections that are in the Labour Standards Act,” said Janice Platzke, Treasurer of SEIU-West. “One of the major changes is to the hours of work provisions. Workers currently have some stability and certainty attached to their work schedules, which allows them to balance their work and family life. That stability is lost with employer able to have workers at their beck and call. For example, employers can insist that a worker be at their disposal due to an emergency in section 2-13. Yet, there is no longer a definition of ‘emergency’ in the Act. It has been removed.”

Also, under the new language, Employers will determine the rules that they want to apply to their workers in respect to what day a statutory holiday will be recognized, whether a worker is paid overtime, and the ability of a worker to have two consecutive days off.

“In addition, we continue to be disturbed by the notion of Summary Offense Ticketing (SOTs) where employees will be forced to pay fines if health and safety infractions occur,” added Cape.

SOTs have been introduced by the provincial government to deal with specific Occupational Health and Safety regulations in the workplace. Tickets can be issued to both workers and immediate Supervisors. The definition of ‘supervisors’, for these purposes, is set out in the SEA.

“While it is a well known that unsafe staffing levels lead to higher injury rates; this ticketing scheme shifts the responsibility for safety, and the fines, to those who have no control over staffing levels, safe equipment, or safety protocols. The SEA, as it is written, does not contain any improved safety provisions,” continued Cape. “So you have to wonder, is it fair to fine workers for their employer decisions to staff down?”

“Our members work for the people of Saskatchewan and are proud of the work they do and we will continue our work to help ensure that labour laws protect working people, unionized or not,” stated Barbara Cape. “We want the public to stand up with us and fight for their workplace rights, before they are taken away.”

To learn more about what lies beneath the surface of the SEA, visit www.seiuwest.ca and click on the iceberg. SEIU-West represents more than thirteen thousand working people in the province of Saskatchewan. They include members who work in healthcare, education, municipalities, community-based organizations, retirement homes and other sectors.

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For more information, contact:

Christine Miller, Communications Coordinator
Phone: 306.652.1011 ext. 2250

For a PDF version of this release, click on the link below:
Media Release: Safety Protections Lost in the SEA

 

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