Gov't asks for extension of stay on labour ruling
Ken Gousseau, CTV Regina
Published Thursday, November 29, 2012 6:49PM CST
The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal has reserved its decision on whether it will uphold or overturn a ruling that says the province’s essential services legislation is unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, a lawyer for the government has asked for an extension to a one-year deadline the lower court gave the province to change the law.
On Thursday, Labour Minister Don Morgan announced that next week the government will introduce a new omnibus bill, known as the Saskatchewan Employment Code.
But that leaves little time for the legislation to be passed before the stay on the ruling expires in early February.
“The issue is still very much alive because (the essential services) legislation will still be in force,” government lawyer Graeme Mitchell said outside the courthouse.
However, lawyers for the unions opposed the application to extend the deadline, arguing that the government was given ample time to revise the essential services law.
“A 12-month period is sufficient to cure it, particularly when the government introduced and passed this legislation within six months of coming to power,” said Craig Bavis, lawyer for the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour.
A panel of five appeal judges heard arguments from more than a dozen intervenors on both sides of the debate during the three-day hearing, which wrapped up Thursday.
In February, Justice Dennis Ball found that the Public Service Essential Services Act infringes on employees’ right to freedom of association. He also ruled that the right to strike is protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The government is appealing the ruling, arguing that while the right to strike is protected by provincial statutes, it isn’t specifically recognized by the charter.
However, union lawyers argue that workers have a fundamental right to strike. They say the essential services law violates the charter by forcing some employees to stay on the job.
The unions are also asking the appeal judges to overturn a lower court ruling that says the government’s Trade Union Amendment Act doesn’t violate the charter.
They argue that the law infringes on workers’ right to organize by making it significantly more difficult for unions to receive certification.