Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sask Labour Allowing Slave Labour?

I was born and raised in this beautiful prairie province, and I made the decision some time ago to build my future here. Perhaps that is why I am drawn into the political culture of Saskatchewan and Canada as strongly as I am. When I see obvious shortcomings in government policies, I want to see them changed. This is particularly relevant in regards to the policies and standards of Saskatchewan Labour.

I believe that a Labour Board should be there to protect the rights of workers not covered by unions. In some cases Sask Labour does this, and in others they simply don't, choosing to represent the employer's needs and wants. Our province's apparent economic boom can only worsen the problem.

According to the Saskatchewan NDP, Sask job numbers are at a record high. This next paragraph is from their website's Issues section. The full story can be seen here.

More people are now working in Saskatchewan than ever before. Our unemployment rate is consistently among the lowest in the country. Youth employment numbers are way up and more and more young people are choosing to pursue their careers and build their futures right here at home.

In contrast to the NDP website which represents that our workers have never been in a better situation, the Green Party of Saskatchewan represents this issue differently in their platform. They seek improvements to the Labour Standards Act. More in depth information on their policy can be found here.

The Sask Party's Guiding Principles include Economic growth and job creation through the private sector, not government, as the engine of the economy. I feel their party policy demands stronger protection for Saskatchewan employees since private businesses, not government, will be in the driving seat.

Many of us are lucky enough to never have a complaint against the labour practices of our employer. The subject for this post was brought to light in my eyes when a friend of mine who works in the retail sector made the brave step to stand up for his rights. His employer refused to give him two consecutive days off in a week, changed his schedule almost daily without the required one week notice of a change to schedule, refused to pay him overtime after eight hours, did not allow lunch or rest breaks, and threatened employees that if they should quit they will not get another job because he 'knows' everyone in the industry. He does not provide safety equipment, and does not follow food safety regulations for there is mold covering the walls and some of the ingredients used! I was sure that once the Labour Board was called in to investigate that action would ensue. I was shocked to hear that his employer was issued a permit allowing him not to pay overtime unless the employer has worked more than 44 hours in a week (nevermind the 5 am to 6 pm shift). He also seemed to find ways around every labour standard within our current system that he wasn't following. And as a final insult, my friend's hours were cut back because he refused to sign the Averaging of Hours Permit. Sask Labour states that no employee can be punished for filing a complaint. Obviously this is not true, at this point why would he even try to file another complaint? What good would it do?

Businesses with less than ten employees are not required to follow many of the labour standards. Employees in certain careers up North are not protected by labour standards. And there are permits, licences and variances available from Sask Labour for businesses that are not exempt. It appears that our government's labour policies are ultimately aimed at protecting the employer over the employee. Perhaps the Sask Party's guiding principle on economic growth and job creation will fit in perfectly with the NDP Government's current legislation.

On this issue I strongly agree with the Saskatchewan Green Party that our worker's rights must be protected and must come first. Until changes to the Labour Standards Act are made, do you think Saskatchewan is a great place to live, work, and raise a family, for all?

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