Sweeping changes to Saskatchewan’s labour relations and employment standards legislation are on the verge of being passed. Bill 85, the Saskatchewan Employment Act, will dramatically transform the laws governing trade unions and industrial relations in the province. The Saskatchewan Party government, led by Premier Brad Wall, insists that the changes will simply modernize and simplify a dozen pieces of existing legislation into a single, omnibus employment act. But workers and trade unions are justified in thinking otherwise.
In 1998, Saskatchewan’s current Minister of the Economy, Bill Boyd, unsuccessfully attempted to pass Bill 218, “An Act respecting the Right to Work (RTW) in the Province of Saskatchewan”, while the Sask Party was in opposition. In fact, debates over right-to-work style reforms and union financial transparency have already been contested in Saskatchewan as Bill 85 developed. But why is Saskatchewan so important in the national context?