November 10, 2015

New Essential Services Legislation Passes Third Reading

The Government of Saskatchewan has passed the amendments to Part VII of The Saskatchewan Employment Act, which covers essential services and WHMIS, the workplace hazardous materials information system.   The essential services amendments balance protecting the public and ensuring that alternative methods to settle labour disputes are available.

“We have always committed to working with public sector employers and the unions that represent their workers to find common ground so that our legislation not only addresses constitutional obligations but also ensures the provision of essential services for Saskatchewan citizens,” Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Minister Don Morgan said.  “As a result of working co-operatively with public sector employers, the unions that represent their workers and government representatives, we were able to find the right balance between protecting the public and ensuring that alternative methods to settle labour disputes are available.”

The collective and collaborative approach used to inform the content of the Act ensures fair and balanced legislation that does not diminish existing rights and privileges of the working people of Saskatchewan.  The new essential services legislation fosters the development of on-going productive and effective relationships between the workforce and employers, and between individual working people and the unions that may represent them.

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 7 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.

“As well, we are adopting a new North American standard for classifying and labelling of hazardous chemicals,” Morgan said.  “Both Canada and the United States have agreed to harmonize our systems to this global standard.  The new system will reduce confusion by creating consistent standards for companies, workers and other end users across the world, while enhancing protection of workers’ health and the environment.”

For more information on these changes and how they affect Saskatchewan workers and employers,