Saskatchewan NDP leadership candidate Erin Weir is proposing policies to improve industrial relations and limit acrimonious labour disputes.
“The vast majority of collective agreements are successfully negotiated without a strike or lock-out,” said Weir. “However, we have seen an increasing number of prolonged disputes in which the employer uses replacement workers instead of negotiating with existing employees.”
He is calling for Saskatchewan to adopt legislation enabling either management or the union to apply for binding interest arbitration to resolve strikes or lock-outs that last more than 90 days. Such legislation has proven effective in Manitoba since it was enacted in 2004.
Weir helped prepare the United Steelworkers submission for workers that requested arbitration months after being locked out of a Tembec paper mill in Pine Falls, Manitoba, in 2009. Earlier this year, he made the case for this type of legislation on CBC’s The Lang & O’Leary Exchange (watch the video).
“Prohibiting replacement workers during legal strikes and lock-outs would also make these disputes less acrimonious,” said Weir. “Such anti-scab legislation would ensure that employers have an incentive to bargain in good faith rather than using replacements for 90 days until they can request arbitration.”
He is also proposing to:
- restore card-based certification to automatically recognize a union in workplaces where a majority of employees choose to join it
- stop employers from intervening in their employees’ decision about whether to join a union
- repeal the Sask. Party’s unconstitutional Essential Services Act and negotiate reasonable essential-service provisions
- increase the minimum wage to $11 per hour and index it to inflation (read Weir’s op-ed)
- set the minimum age of employment at 16 in keeping with international law
Weir would implement a construction tendering policy to prevent contractors from undercutting wages negotiated through the Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council. This summer, the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance invited Weir to testify in defence of the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act, which set wage floors for federal construction projects (read the transcript).
“Collective bargaining and strong labour standards are good for household incomes, consumer spending and the wider provincial economy,” said Weir. “Saskatchewan has been a national leader in recognizing workers’ rights. We must not let the Sask. Party turn back the clock.”
Enforcing provincial labour standards is critically important, especially for workers without union representation. Weir would double annual funding for the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety from $17 million to $34 million to provide more labour inspectors, safety inspectors and mediators.