Saskatchewan Federation of Labour https://sfl.sk.ca The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) represents 100,000 working people across the province. We are the voice of workers, but strive to improve the lives of all people. We support the principles of social unionism and struggle for social and economic justice for all. en Wed, 17 Apr 2024 17:37:26 -0700 Wed, 17 Apr 2024 17:37:26 -0700 Pre-budget priorities for workers https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/pre-budget-priorities-for-workers Tue, 19 Mar 2024 07:42:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/pre-budget-priorities-for-workers

Ahead of Wednesday’s provincial budget – the de facto Sask. Party platform for the fall election – the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) has released three priorities for workers:

  1. Fix wait times.
  2. End education chaos.
  3. Raise wages.

"It's simple: good schools, good hospitals, and good wages are good for workers and good for the economy," said President Lori Johb. She notes that recent events and evidence really drive home that Scott Moe and the Sask. Party are not focused on what matters to working people.

"It's simple: good schools, good hospitals, and good wages are good for workers and good for the economy"

Lori Johb

Johb - who represents nearly 100,000 workers from over thirty private and public sector unions - further highlights the three priorities for workers this budget:

On fixing wait times
Whether it's a doctor's office, an emergency room, surgery & diagnostics, or elder care, skyrocketing wait times are both hurting people and hurting the economy. Scott Moe has pushed healthcare workers out of the profession, and scared more from even entering the profession altogether.

On ending education chaos
Securing a deal with teachers will improve education and build a skilled workforce for the future. Instead of pinky-promising class size commitments, Scott Moe needs to either get back to the bargaining table or agree to binding arbitration.

On raising wages
With the lowest minimum wage in the country, Saskatchewan workers are struggling to make ends meet, never mind start a family or buy a home. Scott Moe could jump-start the economy with wages that keep up with inflation and prevent young people from packing up for Alberta or Ontario.

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Solidarity with Teachers https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/solidarity-with-teachers Thu, 11 Jan 2024 08:45:00 -0800 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/solidarity-with-teachers

Statement from President Johb on the STF announcement

The SFL is unwavering in our support of the planned job action by Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation.

The provincial government's disdain of both public education and collective bargaining is no secret. Our member unions representing thousands of education workers can attest to the challenges raised by teachers.

If you care about decent public education, I urge you to support teachers at this critical moment.


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2023 Holiday Message https://sfl.sk.ca/news/2023-holiday-message Thu, 14 Dec 2023 08:06:00 -0800 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/2023-holiday-message

Season’s greetings!

As 2023 comes to a close, we reflect upon all that has happened in the past year: the important struggles fought and momentous victories won, both by and for working people across this province.

For the labour movement, this year was marked by a strained relationship with the provincial government. This came to a head in October with the invocation of the notwithstanding clause. It shows the Sask Party will shamelessly trample the Charter - no doubt the next time will be to strip workers of their constitutional rights.

2023 also saw the launch of the SFL’s newest labour issues campaign, Speak Up Saskatchewan. So far the campaign has highlighted the failings of the provincial government and the crisis in public education. In 2024, you can expect to see Speak Up Saskatchewan advocating for strengthened public services, accessible \healthcare, good jobs, and vibrant communities as we approach critical provincial and municipal elections.

The year also saw the rise of labour activism and what some called the “hot labour summer.” Job action dominated the conversation across the country, and PSAC and CUPE strikes here at home brought unions and labour together, making our movement as strong as ever.

As the holidays approach, we must remind ourselves that this holiday season may be challenging for some workers.

We think about the workers in Saskatchewan who are facing uncertainty over the holidays - in particular, the UFCW members staring down a continued lockout at the Heritage Inns.

We think of the struggles of those who are looking for work, who cannot work, and who are denied work.

We think of all those working over the holidays to keep the rest of us safe, healthy, fed, and fueled.

Of course, this year was marked by not just struggles at home, but struggles across the globe. The horrors of armed conflict continue to bring destruction, bloodshed, and injustice to countless workers the world over, and we yearn for a lasting peace.

However you may celebrate this season, the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour sends holiday wishes to you and yours.

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Notwithstanding clause Bill introduced https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/notwithstanding-clause-bill-introduced Thu, 12 Oct 2023 13:12:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/notwithstanding-clause-bill-introduced Statement from SFL Secretary-Treasurer Kent Peterson:

Today, Scott Moe takes another step towards suspending Charter rights by introducing his unprecedented Notwithstanding Clause law.

Scott Moe using the Notwithstanding Clause to suspend Charter rights is dangerous and desperate. It is a threat to all worker rights, and all Charter rights.

Scott Moe has lost public support on this issue, and has sparked a broad coalition of people to fight back against his heavy-handed overreaction. Saskatchewan people will do whatever it takes to stop him.

Scott Moe has no idea what he started.

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Polling shows strong support for P.A. city workers https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/polling-shows-strong-support-for-p-a-city-workers Wed, 20 Sep 2023 11:01:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/polling-shows-strong-support-for-p-a-city-workers

Recent public polling conducted in Prince Albert shows strong support for Prince Albert city workers, as the job action by CUPE 882 inside workers continues into its second week.

To the question, ‘do you agree or disagree that city workers in Prince Albert should get wage increases that reflects the growing cost of living?’ a full 71% agree, including fully half of respondents who strongly agree (50.2%).

City council recently gave themselves raises that significantly exceed the rate of inflation, yet are demanding that city workers make less. When asked, over three-quarters of respondents think this is somewhat unfair (16.6%) or very unfair (60.6%).

“I have walked the picket line with these dedicated workers,” said President Johb. “I’m not surprised by this polling at all. This should be a serious wake-up call for city council.”

These are results from an automated phone survey (IVR) fielded to landline and cell (RDD) numbers from September 12th to 13th, 2023, conducted by Strategic Communications, and resulting in a sample size of 638 adult Prince Albert residents. The data is statistically weighted to match the composition of Prince Albert by nested gender and age as per most recently available Census data. The margin of error for a sample of this size is +/- 3.8%, 19 times out of 20.

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Celebrating Pride & Fighting Hate https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/celebrating-pride-fighting-hate Fri, 09 Jun 2023 13:03:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/celebrating-pride-fighting-hate

A statement of solidarity from SFL President Lori Johb:

The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) is firmly committed to equity and justice. This pride month, we stand and march together in solidarity for 2SLGBTQIA+ safety and inclusion.

Queer and trans issues are union issues. Everywhere we look, transphobia and homophobia are on the rise. Rearing its ugly head at work, online, and across society. Infiltrating school boards, city councils, and political parties. We are obliged to fight back against this despicable hate.

Meanwhile, the provincial government seems disinterested in stopping the harmful rise of transphobia and homophobia in Saskatchewan. The continued provincial funding to private schools that espouse anti-2SLGBTQIA+ hatred and violence is particularly distressing.

The provincial government seems disinterested in stopping the harmful rise of transphobia and homophobia in Saskatchewan.

-President Lori Johb

I am very proud of the queer leadership at the Federation in senior elected and staff roles. However, far too many queer and trans people are still not represented in leadership within the labour movement and in our communities. I commit to the continued work necessary to ensure these spaces are safe and supportive for all 2SLGBTQIA+ workers.

I will not stand idly by as hate-filled extremists erode the hard-fought progress of queer and trans Saskatchewanians. The time to act is now.

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Spring session disastrous for working people https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/scott-moe-failed-workers-with-do-nothing-spring-session Thu, 18 May 2023 10:26:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/scott-moe-failed-workers-with-do-nothing-spring-session

REGINA – Today, Premier Scott Moe and the Sask. Party government closed yet another disastrous session of the Legislative Assembly.

“After ten weeks and hundreds of hours of debate in the Legislature, Scott Moe once again did absolutely nothing to help working people get ahead,” said SFL President Lori Johb. “No wage increases. No utility rollbacks. No jobs plan. No relief for health and education workers.”

Saskatchewan people are struggling more to make ends meet than anywhere else in Canada, all while the government stashes away a billion-dollar surplus. Instead of helping the people they are elected to serve, the Sask. Party are distracted by their own pet projects and corporate interests.

“No wage increases. No utility rollbacks. No jobs plan. No relief for health and education workers."

Lori Johb

Through the disappointing spring session, Johb noted that the increasing solidarity among working people keeps her optimistic. Her personal highlight was participating in the largest demonstration in Saskatchewan in over a decade – the ‘Make Noise for Education’ rally organized by the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation.

Johb was also pleased to see how the Opposition NDP held the Sask. Party’s feet to the fire. “I won’t forget how Carla Beck stood her ground when defending Steelworkers in the Legislature – even if it meant getting kicked out of the chamber.”

“The spring session will not be remembered for what was achieved in the Legislature, but how Scott Moe’s incompetence brought working people together,” said Johb.

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Scott Moe’s budget does nothing to give workers a real raise https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/scott-moes-budget-does-nothing-to-give-workers-a-real-raise Wed, 22 Mar 2023 00:00:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/scott-moes-budget-does-nothing-to-give-workers-a-real-raise

REGINA – Scott Moe and his Sask. Party government missed the opportunity to use today’s provincial budget to finally give Saskatchewan workers a real raise.

“Saskatchewan workers are being overwhelmed by a cost-of-living crisis,” said Lori Johb, president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL), “but Scott Moe chose not to give workers a real raise, despite raking in billions of extra dollars due to high oil prices,” she added.

To further put money in the pockets of all Saskatchewan workers, Scott Moe and his Sask. Party government could have rolled back their unfair utility rate hikes and substantially increased the minimum wage.

“Scott Moe and his Sask. Party government continue to make life more expensive by hiking utility rates, increasing fees and taxes, and allowing corporates to gouge Saskatchewan people,” said Johb. “I am disappointed that Scott Moe did not use the budget to right those wrongs.”.

In addition to not giving Saskatchewan workers a real raise, Scott Moe’s budget did not:

  • Roll back unfair utility rate hikes;
  • Increase the minimum wage;
  • Stop all forms of privatization and sell-offs;
  • Fix the healthcare crisis, or;
  • Invest more into safe workplaces and eliminating workplace violence.

“Scott Moe’s provincial budget misses the mark – it does not invest in the workers that power our economy and provide our public services,” said Johb. “Scott Moe has been directed by his rich friends for far too long. By listening to Alberta corporations, Scott Moe has ignored Saskatchewan workers and lost his way.”

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Scott Moe must use upcoming budget to give workers a real raise https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/scott-moe-must-use-upcoming-budget-to-give-workers-a-real-raise Mon, 20 Mar 2023 00:00:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/scott-moe-must-use-upcoming-budget-to-give-workers-a-real-raise

REGINA – Scott Moe and his Sask. Party government have the opportunity to use this week’s provincial budget to finally give Saskatchewan workers a real raise.

“The math is simple: Scott Moe’s government has billions of extra dollars due to high oil prices, while workers are overwhelmed by a generational cost-of-living crisis,” said Lori Johb, president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL), “in the budget, Scott Moe must give workers a real raise,” she added.

To further put money in the pockets of all Saskatchewan workers, Scott Moe and his Sask. Party government should immediately roll back their unfair utility rate hikes and substantially increase the minimum wage.

“Scott Moe and his Sask. Party government have made life more expensive by hiking utility rates, increasing fees and taxes, and allowing corporates to gouge Saskatchewan people,” said Johb, “I am hopeful that Scott Moe will realize his choices have been bad for the workers of this province, and use the budget as an opportunity to right those wrongs,” she added.

In addition to giving Saskatchewan workers a real raise, Scott Moe should use the budget to:

  • Roll back unfair utility rate hikes;
  • Increase the minimum wage;
  • Stop all forms of privatization and sell-offs;
  • Fix the healthcare crisis, and;
  • Invest more into safe workplaces and eliminating workplace violence.

“Scott Moe has been directed by his rich friends for far too long. By listening to Alberta corporations, Scott Moe has ignored Saskatchewan workers and lost his way,” said Johb, “the upcoming provincial budget is Scott Moe’s chance to see the error of his ways, and invest in the workers that power our economy and provide our public services,” she added.

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SFL marks National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/sfl-marks-national-day-of-remembrance-and-action-on-violence-against-women Tue, 06 Dec 2022 06:35:00 -0800 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/sfl-marks-national-day-of-remembrance-and-action-on-violence-against-women

Today, December 6th, is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) recognizes this important day, and remembers the École Polytechnique shooting when 14 young women lost their lives.

Every December 6th since that tragic day in 1989 where these women were killed in an act of misogyny and hatred just because they were women, Canadians come together both to remember those who were lost and to pledge action to end violence against women.

“Every year, this day serves as a solemn reminder of the reality that too many women and girls face violence simply because of their gender,” said SFL President Lori Johb. “Violence against women and girls is an issue that belongs to everyone, and we must continue to work to end gender-based violence.”

Johb noted that Saskatchewan faces some of the highest rates of interpersonal violence in the country, and that much more needs to be done to end violence against women and girls in the province.

“It’s unacceptable, and heart-breaking that we continue to have such high rates of violence against women in this province,” Johb said. “While we have made some progress in terms of supports, like paid time off for survivors and those fleeing abusive and violent situations, we must continue to do everything we can to end violence against women- through education, legislation, and making sure that there are investments and supports in place for those fleeing from unsafe or violent situations.”

On behalf of its 100,000 members the SFL will maintain its work to end violence against women with a continued focus on how domestic violence affects women in the workplace.

“Saskatchewan’s labour movement will continue to push the government for more supports, and continue our work partnering with community groups to ensure that survivors of domestic violence has access to the supports they need,” Johb said.

Members of the public are invited to attend a candle light vigil to mark the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women tonight, December 6, in Regina at 5:00 P.M. at St. Paul’s Cathedral Hall, 1861 McIntyre Street.

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$1 billion surplus shows Sask. Party leaving workers behind https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/1-billion-surplus-shows-sask-party-leaving-workers-behind Tue, 29 Nov 2022 09:55:00 -0800 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/1-billion-surplus-shows-sask-party-leaving-workers-behind

Today’s announcement that the province remains on track to report a surplus of over $1 billion while still doing nothing to address inflation and the affordability crisis shows that the Sask. Party doesn’t care about the struggle workers and their families are facing to make ends meet.

“This is a deliberate choice by the Sask. Party government to hoard money to make themselves look good instead of using this opportunity to help working people and families, and invest in health care, education and public services,” said SFL President Lori Johb. “Instead, the Sask. Party chose to move forward with tax and utility hikes while giving everyone a one-time payment that doesn’t even cover the cost of inflation and that many still have yet to receive despite the announcement being made almost four months ago.”

The SFL continues to call on the government to provide workers with relief from inflation by immediately raising the minimum wage to $15, scrapping PST and utility rate hikes, and providing relief from high fuel prices.

“These are all actions that the Sask. Party could take immediately to provide long term relief and make things easier for working people in the province,” Johb said. “The Sask. Party hasn’t been able to budget for a surplus in years. They’ve spent a decade using their deficits and poor financial planning as an excuse to hike taxes, lower wages, privatize public services and make deep cuts to health care and education.

“Now that there is money to invest, they’re choosing not to and instead are still moving forward with their usual tax hikes and cuts while leaving workers behind to face a once-in-a-generation inflation crisis on their own. It’s shameful, and it just goes to show that the Sask. Party’s priorities are all about making themselves look good and not about working people.”

Johb also said that today’s surplus announcement is also further proof that the Sask. Party’s plan to move forward with privatizing money-making public liquor stores and firing 400 workers across the province doesn’t make any sense.

“How can the Sask. Party possibly justify closing these stores and firing hundreds of dedicated, hard-working public servants while at the same time reporting that the province is facing a surplus? It makes no sense, and just goes to show that the Sask. Party cares more about moving forward with their agenda of privatization instead of actually providing good public services to the people of Saskatchewan.”

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SFL stands in solidarity with SGEU members: Save our public liquor stores https://sfl.sk.ca/news/sfl-stands-in-solidarity-with-sgeu-members-save-our-public-liquor-stores Mon, 28 Nov 2022 08:28:00 -0800 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/sfl-stands-in-solidarity-with-sgeu-members-save-our-public-liquor-stores

The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and Saskatchewan’s labour movement stands in solidarity with SGEU members and is firmly against the Saskatchewan government’s decision to privatize the remaining public liquor stores in the province.

The 400 SGEU members who work in Saskatchewan’s public liquor stores across the province are professional and knowledgeable, and many have dedicated their careers to working in the public service at these stores. The stores provide living wages and benefits which SGEU members in turn use to support their families and the communities they live in.

Saskatchewan’s public liquor stores are a winning business model for the province. They provide good jobs and generate profit that gets put back into supporting our public services. Despite years of being undermined by the Sask. Party government who refused to let them modernize stores to compete with the private sector, Saskatchewan’s public liquor stores have held their own and remained profitable. The revenue from public liquor stores in turn has been used to pave our highways and invest in healthcare and education.

By privatizing our public liquor stores, the Sask. Party government is turning that income and those profits over to the private sector and large corporations who will take profits out of province to benefit their shareholders instead of the people of Saskatchewan. This is a decision made based on a misguided ideology from a government that is convinced that the private sector can deliver better services- something that time and time again has proven not to be the case.

The proposed privatization of our public liquor stores is just the latest attempt by the Sask. Party to sell off public services that belong to the people of Saskatchewan. In 2017, when the Sask. Party passed legislation that would allow them to privatize our crown corporations, Saskatchewan’s labour movement fought back, and won when the legislation was eventually repealed. Now, we are fighting to save our public liquor stores. These stores belong to us, the people of Saskatchewan, and we urge everyone to take action. Visit www.sgeu.org/sos and send a letter to Minister Lori Carr and volunteer with the Save Our Stores campaign.

Together, we can stop privatization and save our stores.

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Doug Ford’s legislation should be a notwithstanding concern for Saskatchewan workers https://sfl.sk.ca/news/doug-fords-legislation-should-be-a-notwithstanding-concern-for-saskatchewan-workers Fri, 25 Nov 2022 11:55:00 -0800 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/doug-fords-legislation-should-be-a-notwithstanding-concern-for-saskatchewan-workers

Ontario’s Conservative government led by Premier Doug Ford set a dangerous precendent for the future of collective bargaining and worker rights in November, when they used the notwithstanding clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to strip away the rights of 50,000 education workers and impose a five year contract instead of negotiating freely and fairly through collective bargaining.

The legislation was ultimately repealed after swift backlash from unions, workers and the public, workers across Canada should be concerned about the precedent this may set for other governments across the country. While the legislation failed in Ontario, that doesn’t mean that other governments like the Sask. Party won’t try it here.

What happened in Ontario can be confusing, so we’ve tried our best to cut through the legal jargon and explain what happened, and why workers should be concerned.

What is the “Notwithstanding Clause” anyway?

The notwithstanding clause — or Section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms — gives provincial legislatures the ability, through the passage of a law, to override certain portions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for a five-year term. At the time, it was intended that the notwithstanding clause would be used only in rare occasions and for non-controversial issues.

Has it ever been used before?

Yes. The notwithstanding clause has been used outside of the province of Quebec three times, including once in Saskatchewan, when the government used it to protect back-to-work legislation in the 1980s. Doug Ford’s legislation in Ontario was the first time that the notwithstanding clause has been used in order to impose a contract on a group of workers.

What exactly happened with CUPE education workers in Ontario?

CUPE education workers in Ontario were in negotiations with the provincial government and were focused on obtaining higher wages for their workers. Education workers in Ontario on average make $39,000 per year, which is not enough to meet the high cost of living in many parts of the province, especially in Toronto.

After the provincial government refused to move on wages, CUPE workers voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike mandate. The Doug Ford government in Ontario responded by invoking the notwithstanding clause and imposing a five year contract on the workers, and steep fines for both the union and workers if they were deemed to have participated in “illegal” strike activity.

The legislation was deemed unjust and an overreach and there was swift backlash by unions, workers and the public. After a weekend of rallies across the province, the Doug Ford government agreed to repeal the legislation and the dismantling of workers’ charter rights. CUPE and the provincial government are still negotiating, with CUPE education workers facing a strong chance of going on strike in the near future.

What are a workers’ protected Charter rights?

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms includes a freedom of association, which includes the right to join a union and has been deemed by the Supreme Court of Canada to include a right to free and fair collective bargaining.

The Supreme Court has also ruled that it includes the right to strike when negotiations between the union and the employer break down. This was determined in a historic ruling by the Supreme Court in a case brought forward by the SFL that found the right to strike was constitutionally protected and a right held by unionized workers.

Why should workers be concerned?

Workers should be concerned because of the precedent this could set for other governments in the country. Premier Doug Ford is close with Premier Scott Moe, and the Sask. Party government has never been a friend to working people. Workers in Saskatchewan and in other provinces with conservative governments should be concerned that if they are ever in difficult negotiations, there is precedent from other governments to use the notwithstanding clause to take away workers’ rights and impose a contract on workers.

What can we do?

The most important thing workers can do is to get involved with their union. The Doug Ford government’s legislation only failed because of an outpouring of solidarity and strength from workers and unions across the province. Using our collective power as union members is the only way to stop this sort of unjust legislation.

Workers can also make sure they vote for and work to elect progressive governments to the legislature that put workers first and are committed to respecting workers’ rights and the bargaining process.

“While the legislation failed in Ontario, that doesn’t mean other governments like the Sask. Party won’t try it here.”

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Saskatchewan’s labour movement stands in solidarity with CUPE education workers in Ontario https://sfl.sk.ca/news/saskatchewans-labour-movement-stands-in-solidarity-with-cupe-education-workers-in-ontario Wed, 02 Nov 2022 11:54:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/saskatchewans-labour-movement-stands-in-solidarity-with-cupe-education-workers-in-ontario

Ontario government’s legislation is an attack on all workers

The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) stands in solidarity with the 55,000 CUPE Ontario School Boards Council of Unions (OSBCU) members fighting against the Doug Ford Conservatives and their draconian legislation that forces a contract on education workers and violates their constitutional right to strike and to bargain fairly.

To pass the legislation, the Ontario Conservatives are invoking the notwithstanding clause- overriding charter protections of the fundamental right to the collective bargaining process. This is the first time a government in Canada has done so to stop a labour action.

“The Doug Ford government’s use of this legislation is unprecedented, and an attack on the rights of workers not just in Ontario, but across the country,” said SFL President Lori Johb. “If Doug Ford is able to succeed in trampling on the rights of workers unchallenged, there is no reason why other anti-worker governments like Scott Moe and the Sask. Party wouldn’t launch the same attacks on working people.”

The 55,000 education workers are custodians, maintenance and library workers, secretaries, early childhood educators, educational assistants, IT professionals working in publicly-funded schools across Ontario. They are the lowest-paid education workers, earning, on average, only $39,000 a year which has left many on the brink of poverty.

“The SFL fought hard to win the constitutional right to strike at the Supreme Court, and this legislation threatens the constitutional rights of every worker in this country,” said Johb. “Saskatchewan’s labour movement stands in solidarity with OSBCU members in their fight against the Doug Ford Conservatives and their bully tactics,” said Johb. The Ontario government needs to drop this legislation and return to the bargaining table with a real deal for Ontario education workers.”

To show your support of Ontario education workers, visit https://cupe.on.ca/dontbeabully/

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Lori Johb re-elected President as 66th Annual SFL convention wraps up https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/lori-johb-re-elected-president-as-66th-annual-sfl-convention-wraps-up Fri, 28 Oct 2022 08:56:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/lori-johb-re-elected-president-as-66th-annual-sfl-convention-wraps-up

Delegates at the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour convention have re-elected Lori Johb as President for a two-year term as the annual convention wraps up following three days of workers from across the province gathering in solidarity to discuss worker issues and the future of Saskatchewan’s labour movement.

“I’d like to thank the working people of Saskatchewan for their continued support in this important role as leader of Saskatchewan’s labour movement,” Johb said. “It’s been a tough few years, and I am committed to continuing the fight to make life better for all workers in this province.”

This is Johb’s third term as SFL President. Since first being elected as President in 2018, Johb has made occupational health and safety one of her top priorities, successfully lobbying the government to create a fatalities and injuries strategy to reduce the number of workers in Saskatchewan who are killed or injured on the job. Priorities for Johb in the coming year include continuing the SFL’s campaign to address the cost of living crisis facing workers in Saskatchewan and continuing to work to make workplaces safer.

Johb became a vice-president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour in 2005, representing her union – SEIU-West. In 2010, Johb was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the SFL, a position she has held until she was first elected SFL president. She lives in Leroy, and is a proud healthcare worker. Johb is a passionate workplace health and safety advocate, a trained education facilitator, and has been active on issues such as women’s rights, supports for survivors of domestic violence, empowering young workers, and reconciliation within the Labour Movement.

Joining Johb as Secretary-Treasurer of the SFL is Kent Peterson. First elected as Secretary-Treasurer in 2021, Peterson is a member of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) who lives in Regina, and currently serves as Secretary-Treasurer for CUPE Saskatchewan. In his new role as SFL Secretary-Treasurer, Peterson said he is committed to ensuring the federation of labour has the resources it needs to invest in its education, conferences, campaigns, and political action.

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Workers rally at legislature after Labour Minister refuses to face crowd at SFL convention https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/workers-rally-at-legislature-after-minister-refuses-to-face-crowd-at-sfl-convention Thu, 27 Oct 2022 12:54:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/workers-rally-at-legislature-after-minister-refuses-to-face-crowd-at-sfl-convention

Minister cancelled convention appearance after announcing the firing of 350 SGEU members

Workers are rallying at the legislature today following the Sask. Party’s announcement that the government is planning on firing over 350 SGEU members and closing all remaining SLGA stores in the province.

While there would have been an opportunity for the Sask. Party to explain themselves at the SFL’s annual convention, Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Don Morgan abruptly cancelled his scheduled appearance following yesterday’s announcement.

“The Minister agreed to attend our convention months ago, as workers have a lot of questions about the Sask. Party’s failure to do anything to address the cost of living crisis, their schemes to privatize health care, and their general lack of respect for working people in this province,” said SFL President Lori Johb. “It’s shameful that the Minister doesn’t have the courage to come to our convention to look workers in the eye and explain why his Sask. Party government is firing over 350 public sector workers, shutting down money-making retail stores and handing the profits off to private corporations. Since the Minister isn’t willing to answer to working people at our convention, we’re coming to him. Workers will make sure their voices are heard.”

Johb said that the Sask. Party’s decision to close money-making SLGA stores flies in the face of their claims that they’re creating jobs and “growth for everyone.”

“This decision is the exact opposite of what the Sask. Party claims to be doing, and it’s a huge blow to the hundreds of professional SLGA staff and their families. The only ones who will benefit from closing these stores are private, out-of-province liquor retailers who will take the profits out of Saskatchewan and out of our economy.”

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Hundreds of workers gather in Regina as 66th Annual SFL Convention kicks off https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/hundreds-of-workers-gather-in-regina-as-66th-annual-sfl-convention-kicks-off Wed, 26 Oct 2022 07:24:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/hundreds-of-workers-gather-in-regina-as-66th-annual-sfl-convention-kicks-off

Hundreds of workers gather in Regina as 66th Annual SFL Convention kicks off

REGINA- Hundreds of workers from across Saskatchewan are gathering this week in Regina as the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour holds the first in-person convention since 2019.

The theme for this year’s convention is “Speaking Up!” After a tough few years, it’s time for working people to come together and speak up for better workplace conditions and safer workplaces, better health and safety regulations, better public health care and education systems, and better wages. Workers must also speak up against privatization, against the corporate greed that is driving inflation and a government that is doing nothing to help workers make ends meet while the cost of living is skyrocketing.

“We’re so pleased to be gathering once again in person for the first time in three years,” said SFL President Lori Johb. “Workers have been through so much these past few years- a global pandemic, the worst inflation in 40 years, a lack of good jobs and a crisis in health care have all pushed working people to their limit. This convention is the perfect time for us all to come together in solidarity as workers, to speak up and tell politicians and employers that Saskatchewan workers deserve so much better.”

The convention begins Monday morning with an address from SFL President Lori Johb. Highlights of convention will include a panel discussion marking the 50th Anniversary of Occupational Health and Safety legislation in Saskatchewan, a rally at the legislature on Thursday, and keynote speaker from actor and author Zarqa Nawaz. The convention will conclude Friday with an address from Saskatchewan NDP Leader Carla Beck and a bearpit session with NDP MLAs, a discussion on the effects of inflation on workers and the election of SFL President and Secretary-Treasurer.

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Minimum wage increase not enough, workers need bigger raises to match skyrocketing inflation https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/minimum-wage-increase-not-enough-workers-need-bigger-raises-to-match-skyrocketing-inflation Thu, 29 Sep 2022 08:46:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/minimum-wage-increase-not-enough-workers-need-bigger-raises-to-match-skyrocketing-inflation

Province must immediately increase minimum wage to $15: SFL

While the minimum wage will officially increase to $13 an hour in Saskatchewan this Saturday, workers in the province are seeing their wages eaten away by skyrocketing inflation, and the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour is calling on the government to fast track their plans and immediately increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“While this is the first time the minimum wage has increased by more than a few cents in this province in quite some time, unfortunately, due to inflation and the rising cost of living, it does not go far enough to help minimum wage workers who are working multiple jobs and still struggling to get by,” said SFL President Lori Johb. “We are calling on the government to implement a $15 an hour minimum wage now instead of in 2024. Workers can’t afford to wait.”

Johb pointed to a report published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives earlier this year that calculated the living wage for workers at $16.23 per hour in Regina and $16.89 per hour in Saskatoon.

“Even when the minimum wage is eventually raised to $15 an hour, it still won’t be enough for workers to make ends meet in the province’s two major cities,” Johb said. “The government must raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour now, and then come up with a plan to match the minimum wage to the cost of living. Workers shouldn’t have to work multiple jobs just to be able to scrape by. Workers deserve regular, meaningful raises that will provide relief from inflation and make their lives easier.”

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SFL launches petition, renews call to make September 30th a provincial holiday https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/sfl-launches-petition-renews-call-to-make-september-30th-a-provincial-holiday Thu, 15 Sep 2022 09:56:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/media-releases/sfl-launches-petition-renews-call-to-make-september-30th-a-provincial-holiday

The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour is launching a petition and renewing its call on the provincial government to honour the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30th a provincial statutory holiday.

“The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is an opportunity for all of us to reflect upon the tragedy of the residential school system, to honour the victims and survivors of residential schools, and recognize the trauma it continues to inflict upon families and communities, as well as to commit to true and meaningful reconciliation,” said SFL president Lori Johb. We encourage all workers and community members to sign onto our petition and call on the government to honour the TRC and make September 30 a provincial statutory holiday.”

Passed by the Federal Government in 2020 after being outlined as a call to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report, September 30 is recognized as a statutory holiday for all federally regulated employees. Several provinces and many provincial organizations will recognize the holiday, but the Sask. Party government has again said that they have no plans to legislate September 30th as a provincial statutory holiday for all workers.

“The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is an important day for workers to be able to take the opportunity to learn, quietly reflect, or participate in reconciliation events in their communities,” Johb said. “The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour is committed to reconciliation and justice for Indigenous peoples. The provincial government must recognize the role they play in reconciliation and the importance of this day, and legislate September 30th as a provincial holiday.”

The petition can be signed at https://sfl.sk.ca/take-action/petitions/sept30

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OH&S in Saskatchewan: Reflecting on 50 years https://sfl.sk.ca/news/oh-s-in-saskatchewan-reflecting-on-50-years Tue, 13 Sep 2022 10:29:00 -0700 https://sfl.sk.ca/news/oh-s-in-saskatchewan-reflecting-on-50-years

The creation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in 1972 was the government’s first well-intentioned attempt at developing workplace health and safety legislation. The SFL criticized this legislation, identifying a series of inadequacies that prompted the government to rethink it. The Department of Labour agreed to revise the new act and deal with the deficiencies identified by labour. What the labour movement was looking for was a plan based on the principle of prevention. Rather than simply paying people when they became ill or were injured or killed on the job, they envisioned a plan that would keep people from being hurt in the first place. At the time, sections of the business community argued that workers were inherently careless and this was the primary cause of workplace illness and injury. Saskatchewan’s Department of Labour rejected this idea, assuming instead that accidents were related to inherently hazardous workplaces.

The new plan sought to reform unsafe work environments in order to reduce worker illness and injuries, and its provisions were enforced by regulations and inspections. Of course, small steps had begun to improve workplace safety as far back as the days of Walter Scott, such as regulations that required employers to provide safe scaffolding on construction projects. There were inspectors for elevators, SaskPower had gas inspectors, and the turmoil in the coal fields had produced efforts at ensuring mine safety through inspections. But the legislation being considered was much broader in scope than any of the measures that had come before it. If successful, the health and safety of working people in the province would be measurably improved and overall health care costs and compensation claims would be reduced.

And Saskatchewan had a long way to go. The province had the unfortunate distinction of being a national leader in the number of workers per capita killed or injured on the job. Unfortunately, the good intentions of the Department of Labour in the 1970s failed to produce a long-lasting reduction in serious injuries. As subsequent events would demonstrate, however, this had more to do with a lack of enforcement by subsequent administrations than it did with the quality of the legislation developed in the 1970s. Saskatchewan continues to lead the nation in workplace-related deaths and injuries. Every year, 25-40 working people lose their lives in industrial accidents in the province.

In a 2004 interview, long-time Labour civil servant Bob Sass claimed the initial push behind the creation of the provincial occupational health and safety legislation came from international unions like the Steelworkers: “The United States had created an Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) in 1971, and people who belonged to international unions were reading about it in their union papers and hearing about it from their brothers and sisters in the U.S. They were understandably interested in having the NDP government in Saskatchewan take a look at the U.S. system to see if it could be put in place here.”

According to Sass, Walter Smishek played an important role in getting the government to move forward on occupational health: “The Department of Health already had an occupational safety unit, but it was barely staffed and had a very limited mandate. John Richards, a former U of S Professor and MLA, had been helping Smishek launch a series of probes into new areas to explore for improving health care and some of the initial thinking came from his work.” The decision was eventually made to move responsibility for occupational health and safety to the Department of Labour.

As the task of improving the 1972 Occupational Health and Safety Act proceeded, Bob Sass welcomed the contribution of prominent Saskatchewan labour activists and environmentalists. According to Sass, no one was more influential in this regard than the SFL President at the time, Ross Hale, and former SFL President Bill Gilbey. As head of the Grain Services Union, Gilbey advanced the health and safety interests of his membership, especially with respect to grain dust in elevators, linking it to lung conditions faced by the farmer/owners of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool.

According to Sass, “Gilbey’s interest in occupational health was karate-like. It was focused and concentrated. He had a large influence on my early development and thinking on the subject.”
Sass began his study of OH&S issues by talking with the union people in the United States, including the United Steelworkers of America’s health and safety people in Pittsburgh. He discovered the American trade unionists weren’t entirely enamoured with their new legislation. It seemed that a lot of the motivation behind OHSA legislation was the desire of governments and big business to come up with a way to head off litigation by both workers and environmentalists. One of the biggest failings of the US law was that it relied heavily on the role of scientists and experts to determine what was safe and unsafe.

A unique Saskatchewan solution was developed which emphasized three fundamental rights, and formed a foundation for the province’s revised “Sass Version” of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in 1974. First, regulations were put in place to uphold workers’ rights to be informed of potential hazards. Second, workers were given the right to participate in joint labour-management Occupational Health and Safety Committees to ensure workplace safety. Third - and by far the most revolutionary addition to the plan - workers were given the right to refuse unsafe work without fear of reprisal. This right was based on workers’ perceptions of what was harmful to their well-being, even without supporting data and expert studies. Workers didn’t have to go to the library, read up, and submit a paper before getting themselves out of potentially unsafe circumstances.

Sass maintains “That right came specifically from the labour movement, in particular from SFL president Ross Hale. I had discussions with Ross about my concerns over the dominance of employer-sponsored expert data under the American system. Ross took the view that if you had to debate the literature about whether or not something caused disease it could go on forever. To make OH&S meaningful ,he believed we needed something like the strike. Without the strike, collective bargaining would be a never-ending debate. To Ross’s mind the right to refuse unsafe work would be to OH&S what the strike is to collective bargaining.”

The evolving legislation eventually contained additional provisions and regulations to help ensure safer work environments. For example, asbestos was declared to be a harmful substance for the first time anywhere in North America. The new rules maintained that there was no safe limit for known carcinogens. If a workplace was seen to be particularly dangerous, the Minister could place it under medical supervision. Doctors were required to provide reports to the Department of Labour’s new chief medical health officer in regard to people who became injured or ill on the job.

Additional efforts were made to make workplace environments more worker-friendly and reduce fatigue. A measure was put in place that stipulated that work could be done from a sitting position as opposed to standing, should be done sitting down. Sass remembers that this was one provision that drew the ire of employers. Department store managers had difficulty accepting the premise that sales clerks should not have to stand behind jewelry or cosmetic counters every minute of the day, putting up with unnecessary strain on their feet, legs, and back. Bosses argued that the clerks needed to be up on their feet and smiling, giving the appearance of being alert, eager and ready to serve customers. Fifty years ago, employees could still be disciplined for sitting down and doing their job effectively, and in some workplaces, including some of the provincial government’s own typing pools, talking was prohibited unless it was directly work-related. Management used school bells in government workplaces right up until the early 1970s that let the “girls” know when they could look up from their typewriters, speak, or go to the washroom. It took OH&S legislation, strong unions, and the liberal, anti-establishment attitudes of the 1970s to creates less dehumanizing workplaces. By the end of the decade, workers didn’t have to put up with foremen watching them drop their pants and timing them while they sat on the toilet. It was no longer acceptable to operate Saskatchewan workplaces like combination sweatshops and primary school classrooms.

Finally, to give OH&S legislation life, people were hired to administer it. Inspectors were sent into the field to investigate workplace safety, and they had the force of fines and penalties backing them up to ensure compliance.

The OH&S legislation met with limited public and employer resistance. In Sass’s estimation, this was in part because people were encouraged to view occupational health and safety as a health issue. Health had been a major battleground in the 1971 provincial election campaign, and not many employers or opposition members in the legislature had the will to challenge the NDP government on health issues.

“What the labour movement was looking for was a plan based on the principal of prevention ...they envisioned a plan that would keep people from being hurt in the first place.”

“The new plan sought to reform unsafe work environments in order to reduce worker illness and injuries.”

“A unique Saskatchewan solution was developed which emphasized three fundamental rights...”

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