Since things could hardly be better in Saskatchewan, what with the booming economy, low unemployment rate, optimistic population, great productivity and efficiency, labour movement engagement in numerous co-operative initiatives and so on, it is difficult to understand why any government would want to create an unnecessary and totally irresponsible conflict where none currently exists.
Much good will has been built up over the past few years, through significant efforts in the area of Labour/Business/Government co-operation. Just one example is the creation of the new "Saskatchewan Labour Market Commission" which is still in it's infancy, but holds much promise if supported and encouraged.
However, the signals are loud and clear - Brad Wall's government have announced that they will be coming out of the gates with a full frontal attack on working people, their constitutional and charter rights and their democratic organizations. The Sask. Party government has announced it will table a number of pieces of anti-union/anti-worker legislation. In the past week, Wall and his cabinet have announced plans to amend (without consultation) the Trade Union Act respecting union certification and employer communication; to open-end the length of collective agreements; and to bring in unneccessary and intrusive "essential services legislation". This is just what they have announced, I'm not sure what else they plan to introduce.
I'm curious as to how this squares with Mr. Wall's election campaign commitment to "reach out to labour". As far as I'm aware, he hasn't consulted with anyone in the labour movement about any of these proposed legislative changes.
Yesterday's National Post carried a commentary by Sara Slinn from Osgoode Hall Law School, York University entitled: Anti-union intimidation is real. I think it's a preview of what we are about to witness in Saskatchewan.
I found this section of the commentary particularly revealing:
Too bad we will have to spend so much time and energy on this when we could be spending our time cooperating, consulting, and working together to create a province that respects the rights of working people in addition to being a great place to work, play, raise a family, and run a business.
"Most academic studies find that employer anti-union tactics are both widespread and effective. A survey of managers at Canadian workplaces where union organizing had recently occurred found 94% used anti-union tactics, and 12% admitted to using what they believed to be illegal, unfair labour practices to discourage employees from unionizing.
The commentators cited academic research showing that introduction of mandatory vote procedures significantly reduce the probability of certification. They suggested that mandatory votes remove this imbalance, and thus fewer certifications result. The commentators implied this was because of a weakness of the card system. However, we must be very careful about making such an assumption.
Academic research, including one of the studies referred to by the commentators, suggests a different explanation. It suggests that the explanation lies in the advantage votes give to employer anti-union efforts. Unionization is less likely under mandatory votes because employers are encouraged to resist unionization and research shows that these union-avoidance efforts (legal and illegal) are more effective under the vote than card system."