Public Values

Saskatchewan's public consultation on labour laws skewed in favour of employers

Unfair process may be illegal.

Bymoen: On the face of it, it seems that the voices of working people will be vastly outnumbered.June 11, 2012: The Wall government appears to be precariously close to violating once again the rights of Saskatchewan working people in the flawed — and possibly illegal — consultation process set up for the review of all of the province's labour legislation, according to the Saskatchewan General Employees Union.

"This is not meaningful consultation. Not only is the timeframe ridiculously short, but it now appears that the list of groups handpicked by government to make a submission is heavily weighted in favour of employers," says SGEU President Bob Bymoen.

Of 666 groups who received invitations, the vast majority have an employer's interest in these issues.

  "This is a consultation process about labour laws. Of 666 groups invited, only 40 are groups that represent working people. How can this be fair?"

"An extra effort seems to have been made to hear from employers. For example, not only did the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) receive an invitation, so did 441 individual rural municipalities," points out Bymoen.

The story is the same for school divisions, health employer groups and the provincial government itself. The parent association is invited to speak, as well as each individual member.

"The Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations is on the list. And so is every health region. The Public Service Commission is invited to speak. And so are 29 individual ministries and crowns," notes Bymoen. "You have to wonder whether each government ministry has anything very different to say, and whether it will stray very far from what the government leadership wants to hear," says Bymoen.

On the private sector-side, invitations were extended to no fewer than nine construction employer groups. This includes the Merit Contractors Association, which is behind a national public advertising campaign to discredit unions.

"This is a consultation process about labour laws. Of 666 groups invited, only 40 are groups that represent working people. How can this be fair?" asks Bymoen.

"How will the government weigh the submissions it receives? We just don't know. Government has not been forthcoming about its consultation process. On the face of it, it seems that the voices of working people will be vastly outnumbered," added Bymoen.

"Government has a moral and ethical duty to consult its citizens when making significant changes to laws that affect our daily lives. It also has a legal responsibility — not just to set up a consultation process — but to ensure the process is meaningful," Bymoen says.

"Our right to be consulted — in a meaningful way — is supported by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, international law and, most recently, in Justice Dennis Ball's landmark ruling that found our government's essential services law to be illegal," he adds.

"Since there will be no public hearings, and parties were only given 90 days to make written submissions commenting on 15 pieces of legislation, it appears that government does not really want to hear what its citizens have to say about the laws that govern one of the most fundamental aspects of their daily existence — their work lives," Bymoen says.

Links and sources
  Consultation process flawed and potentially illegal

Posted: June 14, 2012

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