REGINA – Saskatchewan has passed changes to an essential services law that the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional. Labour Minister Don Morgan says the government worked with employers and unions to find the right balance between protecting the public and ensuring that there are ways to settle labour disputes.
“We’ve had a good record in our province over the last number of years of having settlements, but not a very good record of getting there,” Morgan said Tuesday at the legislature.
Supreme Court strikes down Sask. law that prevents the right to strike
“I’m hoping that this is a tool that’s not used very much. But I hope the fact that it’s there will be an incentive for people to get to the bargaining table and negotiate.”
READ MORE: Sask. fixes essential services law after Supreme Court ruling
The Saskatchewan Party introduced essential services legislation shortly after it first won power in 2007. Court challenges filed by labour groups in 2008 went all the way to the Supreme Court.
In January, the high court struck down a section of the law that prevented some public-sector employees from striking. The court also gave Saskatchewan one year to enact new legislation and made clear that it had to be fair to workers.
Under the old law, essential services were defined as a service to prevent a danger to life, health or safety, serious environmental damage, the destruction or serious deterioration of machinery, equipment or premises and disruption of the courts.
The new law removes the definition of essential service altogether and allows the parties involved to determine what duties must be maintained.
The changes also remove a controversial section that said the government could choose who was an essential worker if the two sides couldn’t agree. A tribunal is now to decide what services are essential if there’s no agreement.
Morgan said he believes the changes will stand up in a court.
“We had a committee of six people, two lawyers on it, one from the labour side, one from government side, and I know that the government people went back and consulted as much as they could internally. We believe that it does satisfy the Supreme Court requirements.”
The amendments to the Saskatchewan Employment Act will come into effect upon proclamation, which is expected later this year.