Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Labour Minister refuses to meet with SFL Executive Council

On March 2, 2008 the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) released the following News Release: Minister still won’t meet with SFL. (Adobe PDF Format)

Subsequently, I received a copy of this e-mail exchange on Monday, March 3, 2008 between Gary Schoenfeldt, and Sask. Party Labour Minister Rob Norris.
"From: Gary Schoenfeldt
Sent: Mon 03/03/2008 6:15 PM
To: R Norris
Subject: Re: Withdraw Bills 5 and 6 and hold public hearings

Dear Mr. Norris,

Your government is afraid to debate the issues giving rise to Canada's worst labour legislation. Say what you will, everyone knows that you are simply practicing the art of avoidance. That is why you refused to honour the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour's invitation to meet with its Executive Council today.

Spin it this way and that, Mr. Norris but until public consultations are held on your proposed gutting of the Trade Union Act via Bill 5 and the reactionary legislation, Bill 6 which purports to address the non-emergency of the century, you and your colleagues are going to earn zero respect for yourselves amongst the working class of Saskatchewan. Keep pandering to that tiny but wealthy constituency of yours and see how many votes Mr. Wall's "John Gormley - inspired" War on Labour produces.

This legislation is designed not to bring balance to the labour relations environment in Saskatchewan, but to TILT power (to use the more accurate term coined by the Canadian Union of Public Employees) over to anti-union employers, the real goal being to shrink the unionized workforce by frightening unorganized workers into compliance. It is designed to take away the Essential Right to Strike from public servants and anyone else that you "deem" to be providing an essential service, thereby removing the means by which organized workers force recalcitrant employers to show any amount of respect at the bargaining table.

There is one thing though, that you have said and with which I heartily agree. Regardless of how much you want to avoid any meaningful examination of the real reasons behind those two little "signature" Sask Party Bills, no matter how much you'd like to pretend that the impacts on workers are negligible, to quote your own words: "the scrutiny of the Legislative Assembly, the media, and the people of this province" will indeed come to bear over the course of the remaining four years, and longer if that's what it takes. The only question is whether a part-time minister of "Labour" will actually be up to the job.


Gary Schoenfeldt


----- Original Message -----

From: "R Norris"
To: Gary Schoenfeldt
Sent: Monday, March 03, 2008 11:58 AM

Subject: Re: Withdraw Bills 5 and 6 and hold public hearings

Dear Gary Schoenfeldt:

Thank you for expressing your concerns on the government’s proposed labour legislation, the Public Service Essential Services Act and amendments to the Trade Union Act.

Our government is committed to establishing a fair and balanced labour environment that respects the rights of the province’s workers and employers, while remaining competitive with other Canadian jurisdictions. We are determined to protect the health and safety of Saskatchewan’s people by ensuring that essential services are maintained in the event of a labour disruption.

On November 7, 2007, our platform received the endorsement of the people of Saskatchewan and now forms the priorities for our government. To meet these priorities, our government introduced two labour bills in December, 2007. Subsequently, as Minister of Advanced Education, Employment and Labour, our Ministry received submissions and I personally met with representatives of labour and employer groups as well as interested stakeholders to discuss this legislation. Additional consultations by Ministry officials were conducted and public input was requested on-line and through newspaper advertisements that ran across the province.

While I note your concerns, I can assure you that these two Bills will continue to be open to the scrutiny of the Legislative Assembly, the media, and the people of this province. Ultimately, the Public Service Essential Services Act will provide for the safety of our families and neighbours,while respecting the rights of unions to take strike action. The amendments to the Trade Union Act ensure greater freedom and democracy in the workplace and help to enhance Saskatchewan’s competitiveness.

Thank you again for sharing your views on this matter

Rob Norris, MLA
Minister of Advanced Education, Employment and Labour"


Brian said...

I just finished watching Minister Rob Norris and Sandra Morin debate some of the aspects of Bill 6. Minister Norris could sure be better prepared and a better speaker.

On the other hand, Ms. Morin was pathetic in her questioning, and seemed more interested in 'beating around the bush' than asking the question that was really bugging her. And, to characterize Bill 6 as an attack on women? I guess desperate times call for desperate measures...

Anyway, with Bill 6, employers are going to gain the ability to communicate their 'facts and opinions' to employees. These are the same rights the unions have had for years (and will still have), and the unions are crying foul? It's about time employers had the opportunity to counter some of the B.S., propaganda and fear-mongering spun by the unions - and Bill 6 will give them that right.

If secret ballots are so bad, why do unions typically use them to elect their own executive? Of course they're not bad - and 75% of Saskatchewanians recently polled agree with the concept.

I'll tell you why unions are so upset - they'll no longer be able to strong-arm their members into signing union cards and getting the SLRB to certify a union without holding an election, that's why.

Larry Hubich said...


Thank-you for your comments. I can not comment on your points raised respecting the commmittee hearings this evening, because I have not been watching them.

The issues with respect to Bill 6 have nothing to do with a secret ballot system. The current Trade Union Act provides for secret ballots, and they are used as required. Furthermore, a signed union card is a secret ballot - it's secret from the person who will fire you if he/she finds out you signed it --- the boss.

The union certification issues at play here are all about employer interference in the charter rights of workers. The Supreme Court has already ruled on this concept numerous times related to this matter and will do so again.

Bills 5 and 6 will be found by the Supreme Court of Canada to violate the Charter, under the Freedom of Association and Freedom of Expression provisions contained therein.

Brian said...

Larry wrote: "The current Trade Union Act provides for secret ballots, and they are used as required. Furthermore, a signed union card is a secret ballot - it's secret from the person who will fire you if he/she finds out you signed it --- the boss."

I recognize the current TUA provides for secret ballots, but also allows the SLRB to certify the bargaining unit without holding a secret ballot. The ability of the SLRB to order certification without a vote taking place allows for union organizers to coerce, strong-arm and/or otherwise pressure individuals into signing union cards. Of course, once signed under duress, there is a low probability the member / employee will recant their signature for fear of retribution.

I believe this is precisely why the government is moving to force a secret ballot - to reduce (or preferably eliminate) the incentive to apply pressure to sign union cards.

Long live democracy!