December 31, 2015

New Essential Services Legislation Takes Effect January 1, 2016

Starting New Year’s Day, amendments to essential service legislation (Part VII of The Saskatchewan Employment Act) will take effect.

Key changes to the legislation include:

  • Removing the definition of “essential services”.  The parties will determine what services are essential for their respective organizations.
  • Establishing an independent third-party dispute resolution body that will render decisions on what services are essential.  An Essential Services Tribunal can also rule whether an essential services agreement substantially interferes with the exercise of a strike or lockout.
  • Providing for binding mediation-arbitration when an essential services agreement is found to substantially interfere with the exercise of a strike or lockout.
  • Requiring 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.
  • Changing the cooling-off period from 14 days to seven days in cases where essential services are identified.
  • Establishing a maximum of 60 days for binding mandatory mediation/conciliation, except where the parties mutually agree to a longer time period.

“The amendments to the essential services legislation ensure alternative methods are available to settle workplace disputes,” Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Minister Don Morgan said.  “They foster on-going, productive and effective relationships between workers and employers while protecting the public.”

The new legislation received Royal Assent on November 19, 2015, and addresses all concerns raised by the Supreme Court of Canada in its January 30, 2015 decision.  The ruling recognized essential services must be maintained while respecting workers’ rights to take job action.

“The amendments came from stakeholders working collaboratively with government,” Morgan said.  “Together, we created legislation that is fair and balanced and does not diminish existing rights and privileges of the working people of Saskatchewan.”

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