Saskatchewan labour law changes worry unions

Provincial government suggests reviewing union dues collection rules, reviewing Rand formula
||Last Updated: 05/03/2012

Scheduled changes to Saskatchewan’s labour laws have unions concerned about the future of labour relations in the province.

The provincial government has plans to conduct a comprehensive review of 15 laws with plans to amalgamate them, creating one overriding labour code.

One of the biggest concerns to unions is whether there will be changes to how union dues are collected. The government is hoping to ask people through a series of consultations whether union members should be able to opt out of paying dues in certain circumstances.

“We’re saying from a statutory basis, we raise the issue whether there should be an ability for somebody not to pay… and what the circumstances might be,” Labour Minister Don Morgan said in a news conference. “We’re not advocating or suggesting a particular set of circumstances. What we’re saying is, we should have the discussion.”

These changes will be detrimental to unions, according to Terry Parker from the Saskatchewan Building Trades Council.

“Our strength is in numbers and working together as a union, as a collective,” Parker says. “When you have it all fragmented that takes apart the whole system."

The Supreme Court of Canada has already upheld the right of unions to collect dues from their members, except when the collection infringes on religious rights. In those cases, the employee must donate an equivalent amount of money to charity.

Saskatchewan is now hoping to ask if there should be other grounds for opting out of dues payments, such as being a student or if the individual is facing financial hardship.

The province also wants to look at who should be collecting the dues.

Currently, most unionized workplaces deduct dues through payroll and transfer the funds to the union. However, a consultation paper prepared for the government suggests the Trade Union Act should not include a requirement for union dues to be collected by employers because says it has "heard from different groups" that this is not necessarily the preferred way.

"Instead, this should be an issue for negotiation between the union and employer," the paper reads.

The province plans to hold consultations with 700 different stakeholders, including businesses, unions and trade associations to determine what improvements can be made.

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