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Saskatchewan workers have a right to belong to the union they choose

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Everyone should have the right to belong the union of their choosing. But starting today, Saskatchewan employers now have the option of removing workers with supervisory duties from their bargaining unit.

The Saskatchewan Employment Act (SEA), proclaimed on April 29, 2014, includes a new provision that excludes supervisory employees from bargaining units. The SEA says that unions and employers have until April 29, 2016 to sign a status quo agreement known as an irrevocable election. After that date, and any time in the future, employers may apply to the Labour Relations Board for an order removing supervisors from the bargaining unit of which they have chosen to be part.

This legislative change is causing a lot of stress and uncertainty for union members who have supervisory duties. People are worried about their job security. They are worried about what will happen to their benefits and wages if they get ripped from their bargaining unit. They are worried about what their future holds.

Saskatchewan is the only jurisdiction in Canada with this type of legislation. And I can see why.

This legislation is a solution in search of a problem. In my 37 years with CUPE we have never had a problem with supervisors being in the same bargaining unit as the people they supervise that was not solved through application of the collective agreement. The status quo has worked -- and can continue to work.

Many major employers in the province have already signed irrevocable agreements, including the Ministry of Health, SAHO, and the Government of Saskatchewan. So far, just a handful of municipalities and libraries seem to be eager to rip supervisors from their union, even though there is no legislative requirement that employers make such an application.

It is in both the union's and employer’s interests to maintain the integrity of the current bargaining units rather than create a separate bargaining unit within the local for supervisory employees. Moving forward on the path of removing supervisors will create an administrative headache and cause uncertainty and undue hardship on workers.

Working people have the right to belong to the union of their choosing. CUPE will fight any employer who moves forward with attempting to exclude supervisory members with every tool in our tool box -- including legal avenues.

Tom Graham is the president of CUPE Saskatchewan.

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