October 15, 2015

Government Introduces New Essential Services Legislation

Amendments to The Saskatchewan Employment Act Part on essential services were introduced today by Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Minister Don Morgan.

The amendments are the result of a working group comprised of public sector employers, the unions that represent their workers and government representatives, working co-operatively.  Public consultations were held from May 2015 to September 30, 2015, and involved public sector employers, unions, as well as emergency services organizations.

When passed, the amendments will enable Saskatchewan’s essential services legislation to address the concerns raised by the Supreme Court of Canada in its January 30, 2015 decision.  The Supreme Court did recognize in that ruling that essential services must be maintained while respecting workers’ rights to take job action.

“The amendments we are introducing today came from stakeholders and government working collaboratively and we believe that they are the right balance between protecting the public and ensuring that alternative methods to settle labour disputes are available,” Morgan said.  “The government remains committed to Essential Services legislation to ensure the health and safety of Saskatchewan citizens is protected during a workplace dispute in the public sector.

“In the event of a labour disruption, our government remains committed to protecting the essential public services that are important to the people of Saskatchewan - like health care and highway safety.  These amendments will help us all work together to ensure those services are provided, which is a huge step forward for the people of Saskatchewan.”

The key changes are:

  • Removing the definition of “essential services”.  The parties will determine what services are essential for their respective organizations.
  • Establishing an Essential Services Tribunal, which is an independent third-party dispute resolution body that will render decisions on what are essential services as well as whether an essential services agreement substantially interferes with the exercise of a strike or lockout.  The Tribunal will be comprised of the Chair or Vice-Chair of the Labour Relations Board and a representative appointed by each of the parties to the dispute.
  • Provide for binding mediation-arbitration by a three-person panel when an essential services agreement is found to substantially interfere with the exercise of a strike or lockout.
  • Require the parties to include in the Notice of Impasse whether there are essential services to be maintained in the event of a strike or lockout.
  • Change the cooling off period from 14 days to seven days in cases where essential services are identified.
  • Establish a maximum time period of 60 days for binding mandatory mediation/conciliation under the Labour Relations Part of the Act, except where the parties mutually agree to a longer time period.

For more information on these changes and how they affect Saskatchewan workers and employers, visit www.saskatchewan.ca.