Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan

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Supreme Court of Canada Essential Services Decision

To All HSAS Members:

Many of you would have heard the news (click here) that on Friday January 30, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada, eight months after the May 2014 hearings, rendered their decision (click here) that Saskatchewan’s Public Service Essential Services Act (PSESA), was unconstitutional. The PSESA was enacted in May of 2008.

During HSAS contract negotiations in 2011, the PSESA had a significant impact on the ability to achieve a collective agreement in a timely manner and the ability to strike. Health region employers named large numbers of members ‘essential’ – in some regions, all members except for 1 or 2 were named ‘essential’. In many cases, the health regions’ essential staffing numbers were far greater than normal day-to-day staffing. Many members who were never replaced when normally away- were determined to be essential in the event of a strike. Only non-essential members were allowed to participate in strike action. In addition, the PSESA also did not contain any mechanism for dispute resolution. Many of you will recall the 2011 HSAS picket signs, which stated a request for ‘binding arbitration’. Public polls conducted at that time showed strong support for an independent dispute resolution mechanism.

HSAS was a participant in the legal challenges to the PSESA, at the Court of Queen’s Bench, the Court of Appeal and at the Supreme Court. As a healthcare union whose members experienced firsthand, the effect of the PSESA on fair collective bargaining, we are looking forward.

The Supreme Court decision has allowed one year for changes to be made to the PSESA. Until changes are made, the flawed PSESA remains in place and in effect.

Karen Wasylenko
President, HSAS

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