Friday 30 April 2010

Brad Wall breaks promise, signs TILMA

Brad Wall breaks promise, signs TILMA

New West Partnership is almost identical to trade deal he pledged not to sign

Regina – Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has broken his promise to not sign TILMA, today putting his signature on the New West Partnership trade agreement that is almost identical in every respect to the agreement rejected by the people of Saskatchewan in 2007.

“For Premier Wall to claim that he has not signed TILMA is simply not true,” said Larry Hubich, the President of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour. “The New West Partnership is lifted almost word for word from TILMA and offers no meaningful protections for municipalities or Crown Corporations, the two issues Wall said just this week were the reason he would not sign TILMA. This agreement isn’t TILMA-like, it is TILMA.”

Like TILMA, the New West Partnership has a “no obstacles” clause (Article 3) which commits Saskatchewan to ensure that its measures do not operate to “restrict or impair trade,” a mutual recognition clause (Article 5) which will harmonize provincial standards and regulations to the lowest common denominator, and an investor-state dispute resolution process (Part IV), which gives trade panels the power to force governments to pay up to $5 million for any measure that violates the agreement. Procurement for all provincial government entities, Crown Corporations, municipal governments, school boards, and publicly-funded academic, health and social services are included in the agreement, with identical thresholds as those found in TILMA.

“Practically the only difference between the two trade agreements is the cover,” added Scott Harris, Prairie Regional Organizer with the Council of Canadians. “Besides adding the word “Saskatchewan” and changing “party” to “parties”, there isn’t a different word between the two until page 7 and only a handful of paragraphs that are different through the whole agreement. I don’t know how Brad Wall can keep a straight face when he says he hasn’t signed TILMA.”

The New West Partnership’s schedules 2, 3, and 4, which cover International Cooperation, Innovation and Procurement, respectively, expressly state that they are not legally binding on any of the three provinces and create no financial obligations.

“It’s clear that the only reason the other three agreements were stapled to the back of TILMA was so that Brad Wall could claim he was signing a new agreement,” said Hubich. “But I don’t think the people of Saskatchewan are going to be fooled by this smokescreen. The only part of the New West Partnership that means anything is the trade agreement, and it’s TILMA.”


Larry Hubich, SFL President (306) 537-7330
Scott Harris, Prairie Regional Organizer, Council of Canadians (780) 233-2528

Tuesday 27 April 2010

Day of Mourning to be marked with launch of ban asbestos campaign

News Release

For immediate release April 28, 2010

Day of Mourning to be marked with launch of ban asbestos campaign

April 28, 2010 is International Day of Mourning for Workers Killed and Injured on the job. In ceremonies across the province, workers and their families take time remember those who have lost their lives, been injured or became ill, due to their work.

“In 2009 we lost 34 workers to work-related disease and accidents. And so many more got sick or injured just by going to work. We remember those who have died on this day and we renew our commitment to creating safer and healthier workplaces,” said Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) president Larry Hubich.

This year’s Day of Mourning was also marked with the release of an important new safety brochure for Saskatchewan homeowners. The Ban Asbestos Committee of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) Committee have just published “Asbestos: Is it in your home?”

The brochure explains the health dangers of exposure to asbestos, and practical advice about what to do if you find it in your home.

“Last year in Saskatchewan we lost four workers to asbestos-related disease. This deadly substance is also found in public buildings and homes. We want to make sure Saskatchewan citizens know where to look for asbestos, so they can protect themselves and their families,” said Lori Johb, chair of SFL OH&S committee.

The Labour Councils across the province will be doing a massive distribution of the brochure to homeowners. Asbestos was used in many types of building products and insulation materials prior to the 1970s, so homes built before the 1970s are a top priority.

Tiny asbestos fibres inhaled into the lungs cause various forms of lung cancer, often many years after exposure.

Bob Sass, co-chair of the Ban Asbestos Saskatchewan Committee is passionate about reaching the public with the safety information. “Asbestos kills over 100,000 people per year worldwide. We must be vigilant in tracking down where the substance is found in our communities. And we must continue to pressure the Harper government to stop the mining and export of asbestos to developing countries.”

Day of Mourning ceremonies to honour those killed and injured on the job will be held at several locations around the province.

“We encourage all locals to support and attend the event in your area,” said Hubich.
Download news release and list of locations here...

Download asbestos brochure here...

Friday 23 April 2010

UN’s International Labour Organization condemns Wall government

The May 2010 issue of the SFL Labour Reporter has a comprehensive article on the recent decision (which is a global rejection of the Wall government's labour legislation) by the United Nations agency International Labour Organization.

We want the workers in Saskatchewan to understand that this is not simply a labour body’s decision. The ILO decision was arrived at by international representatives of government, business and labour. It is a serious condemnation.

The opening paragraphs of the article are reproduced below:

UN’s International Labour Organization condemns Wall government

- Hold full and specific consultations with unions at an early stage of considering any labour legislation....

- Take the necessary measures in consultations with unions to amend the Public Service Essential Services Act and Regulations…

- Consult with unions to ensure that a process is put into place to ensure that all social partners have confidence restored in the Labour Relations Board (LRB) …

THOSE are just some of the requests of the International Labour Organization (ILO), in its March 24th ruling against the Saskatchewan government’s labour laws.

The decision was in response to two complaints filed by the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) and its component, Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU); and the SFL collectively with 16 local unions and five national unions, working through the Canadian Labour Congress Vice-President Barbara Byers.

The ILO Committee on Freedom of Association’s long-awaited decision found the Saskatchewan government violated international law (freedom of association) by proclaiming bills 5 and 6 and by failing to consult with the labour movement before introducing them in the legislature.

The ILO made a series of recommendations and requests of the Canadian government, which is then responsible for ensuring the Saskatchewan government complies with the rulings. (see full article here...)

The complete May issue of the Labour Reporter is available here...
For more coverage on this story see here:

President Obama Tells Wall Street to Back Reform

Thursday 22 April 2010

Premier must keep his promise to consult with the public: TILMA 2.0

Premier must keep his promise to consult with the public: TILMA 2.0

Regina – Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall will be breaking his 2007 promise to the people of Saskatchewan not to sign the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) if he puts his signature to a rebranded version of the agreement. It appears that the New West Partnership will be signed with British Columbia (B.C.) and Alberta in the near future, without any public or legislative oversight.

In an open letter sent today to the Premier, over 30 groups and individuals called on the Premier to release the full text of the New West Partnership. These signatories made presentations in 2007 at the legislative hearings on TILMA, arguing that the government should reject the controversial interprovincial trade agreement. Today they called on the Premier to conduct a legislative review and full and transparent public hearings on any proposed New West Partnership.

“In June 2007, when he was leader of the opposition, Brad Wall listened to the overwhelming voices of the people of Saskatchewan and made the right decision in pledging that he wouldn’t sign on to TILMA,” says Larry Hubich, president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour. “Now less than three years later he appears ready to sign a secret deal that nobody has seen, that appears to be based on TILMA, and he’s hoping the people of Saskatchewan will be fooled by a fresh coat of paint and a new name. I don’t think so.”

In 2007 over 70 organizations and individuals raised concerns about several provisions of TILMA , including those that would lower regulatory standards and that would implement a private tribunal for corporations to challenge provincial rules and standards.

“Saskatchewan was right to reject TILMA then, and it should reject a rebranded TILMA now,” adds Scott Harris, the Prairie Regional Organizer with the Council of Canadians. “Nothing has suddenly changed to make lowest-common-denominator regulations and standards good for Saskatchewan. Nothing has suddenly changed to make giving corporations the right to sue elected governments for millions of dollars for ‘impeding trade’ – decided on by unaccountable dispute panels – suddenly a good idea for Saskatchewan.”
“Handcuffing the ability of the province, municipalities, school boards and public enterprises to make decisions in the best interest of Saskatchewan flies in the face of democratic principles,” concludes Gary Schoenfeldt, chair of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour Trade Committee. “The Premier has an obligation to show the people of Saskatchewan what’s in this new TILMA agreement before he signs anything. Both Brad Wall and Ken Krawetz are on record as saying they would never sign a TILMA agreement without first consulting with Saskatchewan people and we are asking them to keep their promise.”

The groups are asking when the three provinces plan to sign off on the New West Partnership. In his February 9, 2010 Throne Speech, BC Premier Gordon Campbell stated that the “new west partnership with Alberta and Saskatchewan … will build on the success of the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement” and on March 30, 2010 BC Liberal MLA Douglas Horne tabled a Notice of Motion saying, “Be it resolved that this House support the creation of the New West Partnership with Alberta and Saskatchewan.”

For more information:
Larry Hubich, President, Saskatchewan Federation of Labour: (306) 537-7330
Gary Schoenfeldt, Chair, Saskatchewan Federation of Labour Trade Committee: (306) 537-7091 Scott Harris, Prairies Regional Organizer, Council of Canadians: (780) 233-2528

Restoring the Bargain - Sask. labour laws violate Charter: Study

The Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives (Saskatchewan Branch) has just released a comprehensive study by Dr. S. Muthu, Professor Emeritus, University of Regina which confirms that the changes made by the Brad Wall government to the Saskatchewan Trade Union Act in 2008 (commonly known as Bill 6) violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The CCPA News Release says in part:

Regina — The Saskatchewan office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is releasing University of Regina business administration professor S. Muthu’s study, Restoring the Bargain: Contesting the Constitutionality of the Amendments to the Saskatchewan Trade Union Act, a thorough analysis of the constitutionality of the province’s labour legislation. This study represents an important contribution to the current debate over the extent to which legislatures can limit workers’ rights and freedoms. The study also thoroughly evaluates recent Supreme Court decisions, with emphasis on the Dunmore decisions and Health Services et al v. B.C. to determine if recent guidance by the Supreme Court will uphold Bill 6.

Muthu concludes that Bill 6 amendments to the Trade Union Act S.11(1)(a) are in violation of sections 2(b), 2(c), 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Furthermore, Muthu contends that these changes are not saved by the constitutional test under Section 1.

He says rather than representing a “rebalancing of powers,” as the government insists, instead “unions’ and employees’ freedoms have been infringed while employers’ freedom have been enhanced.”

The effect of Bills 5 and 6 “provide the employer with a double barrel gun – freedom of speech enhancement at critical organizing moments and mandatory requirement of certification elections – with a lot of ammunition, resulting in practically an open hunting season on unions.”
View the full news release here...

Download the complete study here...

Concerned about the cuts to education assistants?

Friday 2 April 2010

In Brad Wall's Saskatchewan, worker rights don't matter

On March 29, 2010 the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour released the March 24, 2010 United Nations (UN) agency International Labour Organization (ILO) decision respecting the Brad Wall signature labour legislation - also known as Bills 5 & 6.

You can download the ILO decision here...

The verdict: Bills 5 and 6 violate Saskatchewan workers' international labour and human rights.

The ILO has requested that Prime Minister Stephen Harper (the Federal government) ensure that Brad Wall (Sask. Party government) engage in meaningful consultations with the labour movement to fix the labour legislative mess Wall has created, and to repair the damage done. The government is asked to report progress to the UN agency.

And what is the response of Wall's labour minister, Rob Norris?

He insults the ILO by saying the following:

“This is non-binding and certainly I don’t think this is some of the best work from the ILO,” Norris said.

“The ILO has offered an opinion that’s non-binding,” he said. “The analysis is incomplete. Certainly from where we stand we have every confidence in both our essential services legislation and the amendments to the Trade Union Act.” [Province Will Ignore International Labour Ruling (NewsTalk 650, March 29, 2010)]

Not only is Norris out of step with the most highly respected business, labour, and government representatives in the world - when it comes to tri-partite evaluation of global labour rights and standards - he's also out of step with Stephen Harper's past federal Minister of Labour, Jean-Pierre Blackburn.

Blackburn said the following about the ILO in a speech to the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce on January 7, 2008:

“Through our membership in international organizations and in our bilateral relations with key partner countries, Canada actively works to ensure respect for internationally-recognized labour principles,” Blackburn told the audience.

“It is for this reason that Canada plays a leadership role in the International Labour Organization – the ILO - the UN specialized agency that advances internationally recognized labour rights. The ILO sets international labour standards and promotes decent work globally. It has a structure that is unique in multilateral organizations in that it brings together representatives of government, workers and employers to shape joint policies and programmes. Canadian governments, employer and worker representatives have long played important roles at the ILO.

“Fostering commitment to human rights, freedom, democracy and the rule of law are not only important ends in themselves, but crucial elements in creating security, stability and prosperity. The establishment of labour standards through the ILO and their effective enforcement are key to achieving this goal.”
It's time for Brad Wall to meet with labour and to consult in a meaningful and respectful manner.

Thanks to Joe Kuchta's Owls and Roosters blog for providing the research for this posting...