Meeting brings labour review concerns to light

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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Citing the Saskatchewan Party’s public consultation for the labour review as inadequate, the NDP kicked off its own process in Prince Albert on Thursday. 

Saskatchewan NDP labour critic David Forbes chairs Thursday’s “Your Work Your Say” meeting at the Prince Albert Travelodge, during which time feedback on the provincial labour review was taken. 

Citing the Saskatchewan Party’s public consultation for the labour review as inadequate, the NDP kicked off its own process in Prince Albert on Thursday.

“We think this is something the government should have done,” NDP labour critic David Forbes said prior to the town hall-style meeting.

“They should have been getting a sense of priorities of what people think should be in labour laws — what are the priorities of business, people that are working, seniors students, people that are aboriginal — and they haven’t done that.”

The Saskatchewan Party is currently reviewing 15 pieces of labour-centred legislation that have passed over the last century, with plans to compile everything into one omnibus piece of legislation.

Although it’s currently unclear what the final product will look like and what changes it may entail, some questions asked by the Saskatchewan Party in the consultation paper have caused a stir — concerns compounded by a 90-day review process that the NDP is criticizing as too short.

“There is a fear of that omnibus bill that’s coming forward,” Forbes said. “It’s taken 100 years to strike that balance, and to do it so quickly has got a lot of people anxious about it all.”

Many of these anxieties were brought to the forefront during Thursday’s meeting,

“For the most part, we think they’re fair and balanced at the moment,” Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union representative Curt Woytiuk said. “They help protect workers rights with safety, integrity and dignity in the workplace.”

That said, he added that Saskatchewan boasting the nation’s lowest minimum wage and various areas of labour standards need strengthening, particularly among less than full-time workers.

“There are many … changes that government could introduce to make life better for working people,” he said.

This doesn’t seem to be the case, judging from the Saskatchewan Party’s consultation paper, Woytiuk said.

We think this is something the government should have done ... They should have been getting a sense of priorities of what people think should be in labour laws — what are the priorities of business, people that are working, seniors students, people that are aboriginal — and they haven’t done that. Saskatchewan NDP labour critic David Forbes

“Government is leaning towards changes that would put an unfair burden on individual workers to bargain for some of the basic rights they have today.”

Loosening the 44-hour cap on workweeks and statutory holidays and various other things don’t represent the right direction to go, he concluded.

Saskatchewan Seniors’ Association president Len Fallows reminded those present to take into account their future retirement.

“The majority of this population are going to be very soon people who are 65 years and older,” he said.

“Make certain that your retirement is well taken care of, because if you don’t the government won’t do it for you.”

From Prince Albert, the Saskatchewan NDP will go on to host eight more town hall-style meetings throughout the province this month, with their resulting report presented in the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan in October.

NDP caucus meeting

During down time from their Thursday caucus meeting in Prince Albert, province’s nine Saskatchewan NDP caucus members fanned out across the city to hear form the public.

During the approximately 15 meetings undertaken by NDP members, the key issue brought up was the need for a second North Saskatchewan River crossing at or near the city.

“We’ve heard from a lot of people the importance of the bridge and how the fact that this bridge is causing all kinds of disruptions for business, school children and for many things that are happening, and it needs to be a top priority for this riding,” Saskatchewan NDP interim leader John Nilson said.

The Saskatchewan Party seems more intent on spending money on more politicians and other things before another bridge for Prince Albert, he added.

Additional concerns included a lack of affordable housing in Prince Albert and the fact that Prince Albert no longer has a cabinet minister.

Organizations: Saskatchewan NDP, Prince Albert, Saskatchewan Party Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, North Saskatchewan River

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