Wednesday 29 September 2010

Sask. Party government thumbs its nose at United Nations-ILO

Six months ago the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) found the Sask. Party government guilty of violating the international human rights of Saskatchewan citizens by their introduction and passing of the anti-worker Bills 5 & 6.

In it's decision, the ILO called on the Wall government to (amongst other things):

- 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)...

To date, the government has complied with none of the recommendations and it's inaction continues to sully Saskatchewan's reputation on the international stage.

Recently, the government responded to a number of written questions about the ILO's recommendations which were tabled by the NDP opposition in the spring session. A summary of those questions and responses is reproduced below:

Question 1648: Has the Premier read the International Labour Organization decision?
Response: The Premier and cabinet have been briefed by the Minister responsible for Labour on the ILO Recommendations.

Question 1649: Has the Government of Saskatchewan been contacted by the federal government regarding the ILO decision and the request for the Government of Saskatchewan to report on its progress torwards implementing the recommendation?
Response: The Government of Saskatchewan will respond to the International Labour Organization through the Government of Canada in due course.

Question 1650: Has the Government of Saskatchewan informed the federal government of its intention to comply with the ILO decision?
Response: The Government of Saskatchewan is considering the non-binding recommendations of the International Labour Organization and will prepare a response in due course.

Question 1651: Will the Government of Saskatchewan comply with the ILO decision?
Response: The Government of Saskatchewan will reply to the non-binding recommendations of the International Labour Organization in due course.

Question 1652: Has the Government of Saskatchewan contacted the ILO to inform them of the government's intentions regarding the ILO decision?
Response: No. The Government of Saskatchewan will reply to the non-binding recommendations of the International Labour Organization through the Government of Canada in due course.

Question 1653: Has the Government of Saskatchewan contacted the union complainants to invite them to work with the government in complying with the ILO?
Response: No.

Question 1654: (1) Has the Premier given instructions to the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General to comply with the ILO decision? (2) If so, when? (3) If not, why not?
Response: (1) No. (2) N/A. (3) The Government of Saskatchewan remains confident that the various challenges now before the Labour Relations Board and the Courts will result in decisions that will confirm the Government has acted in a lawful manner.

Question 1655: What is your advice to this Legislative Assembly on whether we are going to be complying with the rule of law and international law as decided by the United Nations' ILO governing body?
Response: The Government of Saskatchewan is considering the non-binding recommendations of the International Labour Organization and will prepare a response in due course.
Would the Sask. Party government be ignoring a decision of a NAFTA panel, or the WTO if Saskatchewan was found guilty of violating an international trade agreement? I doubt it. So why the double standard when it comes to our international obligations respecting worker rights and human rights?

Privatization: The wrong direction for patients

Saturday 4 September 2010

Two-tier minimum wage discriminatory - young workers oppose training wage

Young workers speak out against a training wage
The Wall government recently implemented the Minimum Wage Board’s recommendation to freeze the minimum wage at $9.25. It will remain frozen until December 31st, 2011 when the next review takes place. So far Minister of Labour Relations & Workplace Safety Don Morgan is silent on one of the other Board recommendations: the proposed introduction of a training wage, set at 10 per cent lower than the current minimum wage. Under the recommendation, new hires would receive the lower wage for the first six months of each new job they start.

Young workers, aged 13 to 16, at the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour Summer Camp took a close look at the training wage recommendation, and produced the following petition and letters to the Minister.

Dear Members of the Legislative Assembly,

We the undersigned believe the recommendation allowing 90 per cent of pay for six months to minimum wage earners violates workers’ rights by discriminating against this group. This recommendation takes advantage of new workers, immigrants and low income families. These groups of people already live below the poverty line. If this recommendation were to pass, these groups would be further impoverished, leading to an increased separation between those who have money and those who do not.

Another problem with this recommendation is that it encourages employers to turn over their staff just before the six month period. The threat of being dismissed or laid off just before the six month period could be abused by the employer.

By putting this recommendation into place, what would our province be telling minimum wage earners? Is their labour less valuable than others? Are they second class citizens? Why do our leaders feel we can further exploit these groups?

By definition, the word minimum is as follows:
Minimum: the least quantity or amount possible, assignable, allowable, or the like.

By offering minimum wage earners less than the lowest possible amount, the Government proposes, by definition, a conceptual impossibility. We have the word ‘minimum’ in place in order to safeguard against lower wages. Please, as the Government of Saskatchewan, honour the standard you have put in place.

Sincerely, Avery and Darby, on behalf of the 53 SFL Summer Campers
Letter 1

Dear Mr. Minister of Labour,

My name is Shelby Z. I am 14 years old and I do not agree with the recommendation to create a lower training wage. I honestly believe that this recommendation could potentially let employers take advantage of new young workers. For example, the employer could hire new workers, wait until just before the six months is over, fire them, and then hire a new group of kids.

Another problem I have with this is the fact that you are going below minimum wage. Last time I checked, minimum is the minimum. It's the bottom. Why is the government going backwards? This recommendation has the possibility of putting off young people from working. Who would work for less than minimum? I know that I sure wouldn't.

What about single parents? It’s hard enough to have to juggle working and having a child. It's even harder to do that with less than minimum wage for the first six months. You also have to consider people looking for just a summer job. Summer lasts three months.

This also greatly affects new immigrants. As of right now, immigrants have a hard enough time living on minimum wage. Don't ask them to live even more poorly.

Please, sir. Consider the position of those whom this recommendation would affect. Don't tell them that the work they do is 10 per cent less valuable than others.
Sincerely, Shelby Z.
Letter 2

Dear Mr. Minister of Labour:
The SFL Summer Camp does not favour the recommendation of the Minimum Wage Board to create a training wage that is 90 per cent of the minimum wage. Minimum wage is minimum and should not be compromised. The wage is called minimum for a reason. The minimum wage was increased in March to meet rising costs in the economy. It should be left alone.
It definitely seems like this recommendation targets young people and/or immigrants working for minimum wage. These people are the most vulnerable because it may be their first job or their lack of English. You’re kicking them while they’re down.
The recommendation would greatly benefit the employer, so what are the employers giving back to the employees? A lot of teenagers are only looking for a summer job and summer is not six months. The proposal may say to some people that they are second-class citizens. It may be an insult to immigrants and young people. I hope you honour these requests, opinions, and ideas from the SFL Summer Camp.
Taylor G.
The young workers at SFL Summer Camp have interesting stories to tell about the kind of training they receive at work. Most had received very little on-the-job training; some had received no occupational health and safety training whatsoever. We know from Workers’ Compensation statistics that our youth are working in dangerous jobs. Thanks to the Wall government, they are also working as young as age 14. Let’s not further exploit our young workers, and our minimum wage earners who are already the lowest paid in the province, by implementing a discriminatory training wage.
Larry Hubich
SFL President

To download a copy of the Petition against the training wage, click here....