POLITICS

Notwithstanding clause an option in SCOC Saskatchewan labour ruling: Wall

02/04/2015 06:23 EST | Updated 04/06/2015 05:59 EDT
SASKATOON - Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says the province could use the notwithstanding clause if it can't rewrite a labour law agreeable to both the province and the Supreme Court of Canada.

The high court last week struck down provincial essential services legislation that would have restricted some public-sector employees from striking.

The court said the right to strike is constitutionally protected.

It gave Saskatchewan one year to enact a new law that is fair to workers.

Wall told a meeting of the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association that his government is concerned about the law being struck down.

But the government is willing to look at the ruling to — in his words — "see if we can accommodate what they're saying."

Wall said he still wants essential services protection "so that a strike or a lockout does not threaten public safety or health.

"And if we can do that, we'll make a few changes to the legislation ... and we'll proceed," he said Wednesday. "If it looks like we cannot do that, then the only option we would have is to use the notwithstanding clause."

The clause in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows the federal government or a provincial legislature to enact legislation to override several sections of the charter that deal with fundamental freedoms, legal rights and equality rights.

After winning power in 2007, the Saskatchewan Party introduced a law which said employers and unions had to agree on which workers could be deemed essential and not allowed to legally strike. But the law also said that if the two sides couldn't agree, the government got to choose who was an essential worker.

Labour groups challenged the legislation all the way to the Supreme Court. On Friday, in a 5-2 ruling, the court affirmed the principle that any labour relations law that gives management a final say over the conditions of its workers simply doesn't cut muster.

The Saskatchewan law came after some high-profile labour unrest, including a strike by thousands of nurses in 1999 and another by highway workers and correctional officers in late 2006 and early 2007.

(CJWW, The Canadian Press)