Labour board could set precedent for Saskatchewan employers and unions

A Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board ruling on if supervisors should be excluded from a Saskatoon union could set a precedent for employers moving forward, according to a University of Saskatchewan (U of S) law professor.

In mid-June, the Saskatoon Public Library submitted to the board that 28 of its supervisory positions be excluded from its employee’s bargaining unit. Similar action has taken place with the City of Moose Jaw.

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    “I think these first two or three applications are going to be key in determining what’s going to happen in Saskatchewan labour relations,” said Keir Vallance, a U of S assistant law professor who formally practiced labour law.

    “If the board comes down … against exclusion, that may put a brake on other employers bringing these types of applications, if the board allows them you may see even more applications than expected of this sort.”

    READ MORE: Saskatoon library supervisors being removed from union

    The action stems from the Saskatchewan Employment Act, which states that supervisors should not be in a bargaining unit. Vallance said the measure is unique to Saskatchewan.

    The legislation came into effect in April and employers can now act to remove supervisors or keep their bargaining units status quo.

    “For supervisors to be in the same bargaining unit as the people they supervise, sometimes that can create a conflict,” said Carol Cooley, the Saskatoon Public Library CEO.

    “If there’s a performance management issue that comes up, that can create a tension for a supervisor who is in the same bargaining unit as the people they’re trying to manage.”

    READ MORE: New year brings changes to Sask. essential services legislation

    The union that represents Saskatoon Public Library workers is CUPE Local 2669. Rhonda Heisler advises the group and said the action is unnecessary.

    “Supervisors are able to draw the distinction between their job descriptions and their union affiliation,” said Heisler, who is a servicing representative with CUPE.

    Heisler said there are mechanisms in place to assist a supervisor who “does feel conflict about supervising another union member.”

    “Historically this has always worked for us.”

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