By Joe Couture, The StarPhoenix March 5, 2012 7:30 PM
Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Minister Don Morgan
Photograph by: Gord Waldner , The StarPhoenix
REGINA — Saskatchewan’s provincial government is appealing a court ruling that found its essential services legislation to be unconstitutional.
“The biggest concern we have with the judgment is it creates a constitutional right to strike, which doesn’t exist anywhere in Canadian jurisprudence,” Justice Minister Don Morgan told reporters Monday.
The decision to appeal came almost exactly one month after Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Dennis Ball released his decision on a charter challenge launched by the province’s labour movement. Ball said the legislation, introduced by the Saskatchewan Party government soon after it took power in 2007, went too far in its negative effects on the rights of unions to strike.
Morgan said while the right to strike is acknowledged in law, “it has never been something that has been recognized by the Constitution” and the implications of that could be significant to various types of legislation. Other provinces, where essential services legislation hasn’t been challenged, are watching the situation closely, he added.
The judge granted 12 months for the province to look at revising the legislation and an extension to that is part of the appeal, Morgan continued. He said work on the appeal will continue concurrently with revisions to the essential services law and the processes will be separate. New legislation could be introduced in the fall, he said.
“We’re absolutely committed to having essential services legislation,” Morgan added. “Virtually every other jurisdiction does have essential services legislation.”
Larry Hubich, president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, which led the charter challenge, said Monday he was “disappointed” to learn about the appeal.
“This is a decision that upholds the rights of working people, so we’re a bit disappointed,” he said. “We were hoping that the government would have accepted justice Ball’s decision.”
Morgan and Hubich said they intend to meet and are willing to work together on legislation. But Morgan said outright opposition to essential services legislation won’t be “productive or beneficial,” while Hubich said the SFL wants to ensure “any legislation doesn’t violate the charter rights” and “in that regard, we’re open to engaging in a dialogue.”
“We’ll be in court defending that decision of justice Ball,” Hubich added. “That’s unfortunate. It would have been preferable to see if there was a way we could comply with the judge’s decision and work collaboratively.”
NDP labour critic David Forbes, who criticized Morgan during question period Monday for the decision to appeal, later told reporters he was “disappointed” by it.
“I was hopeful and the unions were giving a lot of signals that they were willing to work with this government,” he said. “We thought they were making good progress and all of a sudden this happens. It’s a bit of a shock.”
© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix