Saskatchewan labour laws violate Charter: Study

April 21, 2010

Regina — The Saskatchewan office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is releasing University of Regina business administration professor S. Muthu’s study, Restoring the Bargain: Contesting the Constitutionality of the Amendments to the Saskatchewan Trade Union Act, a thorough analysis of the constitutionality of the province’s labour legislation. This study represents an important contribution to the current debate over the extent to which legislatures can limit workers’ rights and freedoms. The study also thoroughly evaluates recent Supreme Court decisions, with emphasis on the Dunmore decisions and Health Services et al v. B.C. to determine if recent guidance by the Supreme Court will uphold Bill 6.

Muthu concludes that Bill 6 amendments to the Trade Union Act S.11(1)(a) are in violation of sections 2(b), 2(c), 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Furthermore, Muthu contends that these changes are not saved by the constitutional test under Section 1.

 He says rather than representing a “rebalancing of powers,” as the government insists, instead “unions’ and employees’ freedoms have been infringed while employers’ freedom have been enhanced.”

The effect of Bills 5 and 6 “provide the employer with a double barrel gun – freedom of speech enhancement at critical organizing moments and mandatory requirement of certification elections – with a lot of ammunition, resulting in practically an open hunting season on unions.”

With the current court challenge to the Wall government’s labour legislation by both the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) and the Saskatchewan General Employees Union (SGEU), professor Muthu’s analysis offers a detailed background of the arguments and logic that will ultimately shape this important judicial decision.

The recent decision by the International Labour Organization (ILO) that urged the Saskatchewan government to fundamentally re-write Bills 5 and 6 in consultation with workers and provincial labour groups constituted a stinging rebuke to the Brad Wall government that has insisted that the Bills represented a “balanced approach” to labour relations in the province.

More significantly, the ILO decision represents an important precedent that could have a direct bearing on the constitutionality of Saskatchewan’s current labour legislation. As recent decisions have shown, provincial and federal courts have been more inclined to consider rules of international law and human rights when adjudicating labour decisions. The ILO response will only add further fuel to the argument that Saskatchewan’s labour law regime is unconstitutional.


Professor S. Muthu will be available for interviews and can be reached by phone at (306) 586 0519 or by email at: [email protected]

For further information contact: Simon Enoch, Director, Saskatchewan Office CCPA  (306) 924 3372 [email protected]