Tag Archives: Public Service Essential Services Act

Media Release: SEIU-West to Reply to Appeal of Court Decision

For Immediate Release – March 8, 2012

Saskatoon – SEIU-West members and leadership are disappointed by the announcement that the Government of Saskatchewan will be appealing the Court of Queen’s Bench decision, which struck down the Public Service Essential Services Act (PSES) as unconstitutional.

“Our members were hopeful that the government would accept the decision of the court and we could work together to create legislation that protects public safety and upholds the Charter Rights of working people,” said Barbara Cape, President of SEIU-West.

The plaintiffs have 15 days to reply to this appeal and SEIU-West will be seeking intervenor status again.

“Do we want to work on this piece of legislation with the government? Yes we do. Our members have always recognized the important role they play in providing services for the public good and this has not changed through the court challenge nor will it in the future,” continued Cape.

SEIU-West represents approximately twelve 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 – 306.652.1011 ext. 2250

For a printable PDF of this release, click on the link below:

Media Release: SEIU-West to Reply to Appeal of Court Decision

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President’s Message – March 2012

Click on the picture to download the PDF of the Court's Decision

At the beginning of February, Justice Dennis Ball of the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench delivered the court’s decision (SFL v Province of Saskatchewan QBG 1059 of 2008) on the SFL Charter challenge regarding the government’s new legislation The Public Services Essential Services Act (Bill 5) and the amendments to The Trade Union Act (Bill 6).  SEIU-West was an intervenor in this case, along with the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) – the Plaintiffs in this case were named as the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) and nineteen or so of its affiliates.

We have talked about this case a great deal over the last few years with our members.  However, it bears repeating why we went forward with the case.

The Plaintiffs and Intervenor Unions argued that Bill 5 violated our members’ rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of Canada.  Essentially (no pun intended!), we said that your right to take legal job action, including the strike, in support of collective bargaining was significantly impaired and members’ right to freedom of association as protected by the Charter was violated.  SEIU-West put forward our experiences how the essential service legislation affected collective bargaining.  We didn’t have any unique evidence to put forward any arguments in relation to the amendments to The Trade Union Act.

The Government of Saskatchewan was the Defendant in this case – and they too had a cast of many intervenors.  They argued that Bill 5 didn’t violate our members’ rights under the Charter because Section 1 saved it from having to uphold your right – in essence, that the Essential Services legislation did allow for a limited right to strike and that public safety concerns overrode an individual’s freedom of association and right to strike.

The decision by Justice Ball indicated that there are many provinces across Canada that have essential services legislation and those provinces’ laws allow for an independent dispute resolution process.  In those jurisdictions, any disputes about Essential Services can be determined by an independent 3rd party with an eye towards fairness for both parties. As well, many of the other provinces have a binding arbitration mechanism to resolve disputes arising at collective bargaining tables. The Essential Services legislation in Saskatchewan doesn’t include any sort of reasonable balancing processes – which is where the problem lies and, in part, why the Saskatchewan legislation was declared unconstitutional.  Justice Ball also pointed out that the Government of Saskatchewan didn’t properly consult with stakeholders, like SEIU-West, when deciding what this legislation would look like.

We have posted Justice Ball’s decision on our website and I encourage you to read it (click on the following link for the PDF document:SFL v Province of Saskatchewan QBG 1059 of 2008). It’s well written and fairly takes a look at past job actions and their result, as well as pointing out the problems with the current essential services legislation.

So what does this mean for SEIU-West members?  Well, the short answer is that nothing really changes right now.  The Plaintiffs and Defendants agreed that should the decision be in the Plaintiffs favour, Justice Ball’s decision would be suspended, or put on hold, for a period of 12 months to give the Government of Saskatchewan time to make the necessary amendments to the essential services legislation.  This is common.

Over the longer term, the decision means that there is a unique opportunity for both the trade union movement and the Government of Saskatchewan to sit down and really talk about the intent and scope of this legislation.  In the healthcare sector, SEIU-West members have never contemplated job action without ensuring that there would be emergency services provided.  In other sectors, education or municipalities or community-based organizations, SEIU-West members have always recognized the need to provide those emergency services that our communities rely on during a job action.  I repeat: members have always recognized this and we have always planned to provide services.

If we can sit down and talk with the Government of Saskatchewan, to explain the realities in our sectors, and work with them to make fair and reasonable legislation that lets us keep the public safe while still being able to exercise our rights under the Charter… that will be a step in the right direction for the people of Saskatchewan, our members, and those that we serve within our jobs.

The decision from Justice Ball was a good decision – well thought out, balanced and provides the parties with direction on how to improve things.  The next steps belong to the labour movement and the Government of Saskatchewan: we all have a stake in making this province even better – this is a rare opportunity to establish a relationship that works.

In Solidarity,

Barbara Cape
President – SEIU-West

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Media Release: The Views of Labour on Essential Services

February 14, 2012

For Immediate Release

Saskatoon – SEIU-West members and leadership welcomed today’s announcement from the Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety, Don Morgan. Mr. Morgan is now seeking input from the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) and its affiliates in order to develop an essential services model. Parties should be working towards an essential services model that will ensure public safety, and at the same time, will not diminish the bargaining power of the providers.

Barbara Cape, President of SEIU-West stated: “The decision of Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Ball is truly valued by those of us who have repeatedly sought participation in this process for the last four years. Four years ago today, SEIU-West shared our brief with the [then] Minister of Labour, Rob Norris. While the contents our brief did not positively influence the legislation at the time, the fact that The Public Services Essential Services Act (PSES Act) has now been declared to be unconstitutional does provide us with a sense that the government may recognize a need to be more inclusive with organized labour.”

The letter forwarded today by the Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety sets out a timeline of March 2, 2012 for the submission of written views by the SFL and its affiliates.

Cape noted, “We have waited for four years to begin a conversation with the government on this issue and we require sufficient time to complete the process. This involves the opportunity to sit down with the Minister and determine the kind of information we need to share to lend to a better understanding between the parties.  We believe this will naturally connect to what is appropriate as an ‘essential service’ for Saskatchewan people.”

The decision of Justice Ball acknowledged the broad application of the PSES Act and noted that there was an imbalance of power in favour of employers under the Act. He pointed to the absence of an independent dispute mechanism and he confirmed that the Saskatchewan legislation comes far too close to prohibiting the right to strike.

“We continue to be hopeful that our dialogue will result in a positive outcome for our future negotiations processes and we are eager for all parties to reach a resolution together – for the public good and to support worker’s rights,” added Cape.

SEIU-West represents approximately twelve 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 – 306.652.1011 ext. 2250

For a PDF version of this release, click on the link below:

Media Release: The Views of Labour on Essential Services

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