Questions of Concern for the Public
Minimum three weeks vacation, the 40-hour work week, a minimum wage reflective of the cost of living. These basic rights for all workers in the province – our children, neighbours, and relatives - are set out in The Labour Standards Act. These basic workplace rights are also called into question in the Government’s review of labour legislation.
If these basic rights were eroded or negatively affected, what would be the advantage to working in Saskatchewan?
SUN believes that we have an obligation to address these issues as both active members of our communities and as advocates working to improve patient health. Click on each question below to learn how each will have an impact.
Currently, there are workplaces and employers that seek permits to be able to vary the hours of work from a standard 40-hour work week. As RNs, RPNs and RN(NP)s we are familiar with averaging periods and understand the need to have some ability to provide 24 hour coverage in a manner that benefits the employee, the employer and our patients. However, we have the ability to negotiate these variable hours of work arrangements though collective bargaining. The changes being suggested in The Labour Standards Act would provide employers the ability to negotiate directly with children as young as 14, new immigrants, and those that are amongst the most vulnerable workers in society. These are employees who are often not aware of what their basic rights are and would be ill-equipped to negotiate individual hours of work that are fair. Not only does this overturn one of the key victories of decades of labour advocacy – the 40 hour work week – but can require these vulnerable workers to work beyond the mandatory 40 hours a week without the payment of overtime.
Saskatchewan labour legislation currently guarantees the country’s highest level of vacation at three weeks annually; employees with ten years of services are entitled to four weeks of annual vacation. Most other jurisdictions provide two weeks as the baseline. With a booming economy many of the provisions in Saskatchewan labour law - which were once relatively generous - are becoming less than adequate to attract skilled and unskilled workers to the province. Provisions such as a three week guaranteed annual vacation comprise the Saskatchewan advantage and should be expanded so that the province continues to attract needed skilled labour.
Labour standards are intended to provide base protection to workers not represented by a union or covered by a collective bargaining agreement. They are intended to be universal and applied consistently so that workers have predictability and are not unduly pressured by employers to accept work conditions lower than their peers. To allow employers to change the dates of statutory holidays dissolves the protection given to workers across the board. Saskatchewan currently observes the highest number of statutory holidays across the country; again this is part of the Saskatchewan advantage.
As of July 1, 2012, Saskatchewan will have the lowest minimum wage in the country at $9.50. By raising the minimum wage, the provincial government would be taking immediate steps to address poverty and inequality in Saskatchewan. The government should raise the minimum wage above the poverty line and tie that wage to the consumer price index (inflation).