GSU general secretary Hugh Wagner is preparing a written brief to Saskatchewan’s Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety regarding the status of supervisory employees under the Saskatchewan Employment Act (SEA).
“Following a two-year period of grace, on April 29, 2016 the SEA was amended to prohibit supervisory employees from being in the same bargaining unit as those employees they supervise. Thus ended 70 years of a sound feature of labour relations legislation in the province,” said Wagner. “This amendment was acted on by the Government of the day despite almost no one having asked for it, at least not on the record.”
“Beginning with Saskatchewan’s first Trade Union Act in 1944 the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board (SLRB) had the ability to inquire into each application for union certification brought before it and determine whether supervisory employees should or shouldn’t be included in the same collective bargaining unit as the employees they were supervising. The SLRB had the ability and expertise to make a determination on the basis of the facts and dynamics of a particular situation,” Wagner said.
“Between 1944 and 2014 the SLRB included supervisory employees in “all employee bargaining units” in the vast number of cases and stable labour relations prevailed. However, on April 29, 2014 the Government of Saskatchewan made it mandatory that supervisory employees cannot be included in the same barging unit as those they supervise. Interestingly, the construction industry and registered nurses were exempted from this amendment to the Saskatchewan Employment Act,” said Wagner.
A measure of stability on the subject of supervisory employees was returned to the equation in January of 2017 when the SLRB ruled that the automatic exclusion of supervisory employees from the same bargaining unit as those they supervised did not apply to existing certified bargain units and would only apply to new certification applications. This decision, known as “Saskatoon Public Library” stood until reconsidered and reversed by the SLRB in February 2021 in a case involving the University of Saskatchewan and the Administrative and Supervisory Employees Association. As matters now stand the situation is not clear and judicial review is being pursued by a number of unions who argue, amongst other things, that the mandatory exclusion of supervisory employees under the SEA is a violation of the right to freedom of association protected under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Amidst the litigation on this subject, in mid-April the Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety asked for submissions. GSU will be tendering a brief urging that the SEA be amended to return matters to the pre-2014 status quo.
“While there is much to criticize and improve on in the Saskatchewan Employment Act the carte blanche exclusion of supervisory employees stands as a particularly egregious feature of the legislation and it should be eliminated,” Wagner said. “GSU’s brief will propose that things be returned to normal.”
Advocating for labour legislation favourable to working people and their unions is part of GSU’s mission and mandate.