I find it extremely alarming that in 2012 Saskatchewan recorded its largest number of workplace fatalities in more than 30 years.
Over the past couple of years, it actually seemed like we were making positive progress in the area of Occupational and Health and Safety. In 2012, in fact, considerable increases were made to the fines that are levied for failure to comply with safety legislation.
Earlier this week, however, in response to an announcement about the devastating number of workplace deaths that occurred in our province last year, the Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety boasted about a new omnibus bill, Bill 85, that will rewrite labour legislation in our province. The Minister claimed that Bill 85 will somehow address the dramatic increase in workplace deaths that we saw in 2012.
Make no mistake, the government’s omnibus Bill 85 will do absolutely nothing to improve safety for working people in Saskatchewan.
I would think that something as important as keeping workers safe and healthy would be a priority for the Saskatchewan Party government, especially when we have a larger number of people working in the province than ever before, but the sole purpose of Bill 85 is to reduce labour standards and to unfairly stack the deck in favour of employers, at the expense of working people. The bill is a tool that the government is using to eliminate the weekend, the eight-hour workday, the 40-hour workweek, overtime pay and many other labour standards. Bill 85 will also prevent thousands of Saskatchewan people from joining organizations of their choosing – like unions or other associations – and will give employers the power to override remaining labour standards at their discretion. To try and suggest that the omnibus bill will somehow protect working people, especially those that are in danger of losing their lives, is absolutely wrong and it is extremely unfortunate that the Minister tried to make such a claim.
On April 28th, the National Day of Mourning, the names of those that died at work in Saskatchewan last year will be read out, and Bill 85 will do nothing to console their families.
Lori Johb - Saskatchewan Federation of Labour Occupational Health and Safety Committee Chair