Know your Rights!
Your rights as a worker in Saskatchewan are governed by the Saskatchewan Employment Act. The following is a brief overview of your rights under the Act, including some frequently asked questions about organizing a union. This list is not exhaustive, and some points do not apply to every workplace. For example, there are special rules for firefighters, farmers or farmhands, the military, and others. You can and should access a copy of the Saskatchewan Employment Act, available at Saskatchewan.ca.
Are there rules the employer has to follow in the workplace?
Of course! In fact, there are lots of them. Including, but not limited to…
- Your employer cannot charge you a fee for hiring you
- Your employer cannot take ‘Discriminatory Action’ (including discipline, unreasonable changes to job duties, or termination) against you for requesting your employer comply with your rights under the Act. (Examples: for being pregnant, for any disability, for trying to enforce your rights legally, for having your wages withheld or overstated)
- Your employer must give you your schedule at least one week in advance – except for changes that are unexpected, unusual, or in an emergency
- Without your consent, your employer cannot demand that you work more than 44 hours in a week, or 36 hours in a week with a public holiday – except in unexpected, unusual, or emergency circumstances
- Except in emergency circumstances, you must be given eight consecutive hours off
- Except in the case of your employer applying for a written exemption, if you work 20 hours or more in a week your employer must grant one day off per week
- Subject to unexpected, unusual, or emergency circumstances, your employer must provide you with an unpaid, 30 minute meal break within every five consecutive hours of work. If you work more than five consecutive hours and are not granted a meal break, your employer must permit you to eat while working unless it is unreasonable. Your employer must provide an unpaid meal break at a time that is necessary for medical reasons
- Your employer must pay you at least the minimum wage, either according to your employment contract or, if you are unionized, according to your collective agreement
- Your employer must pay men and women the same pay for the same work, and for work that requires the same level of skill, effort, and responsibility
- Your employer cannot charge you for a uniform that identifies your place of employment
- So long as a termination is not for ‘just cause’ and you have been employed for at least 13 consecutive weeks, you are entitled to at least one week written notice of a layoff or at least one week of pay (there are exceptions laid out in the Act)
** Whether you work in a unionized workplace or not, you cannot stage a spontaneous walkout, work slowdown, or strike without the risk of being fired for abandoning your position. If you are unionized, your ability to strike is protected by the Supreme Court of Canada. However, there are numerous rules to follow before you can take legal strike action. Speak to your union representative if you have questions about strikes or lockouts.
How can I enforce my rights as a worker?
Depending on which of your rights as a worker have been violated, you can file a claim with:
- Saskatchewan Labour Standards
- The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission
- Occupational Health and Safety
We understand the difficulty workers face in enforcing their own rights. All of these enforcement bodies are understaffed and overworked. Further to which, just because the law states you can’t face retaliation from your boss for enforcing your rights on the job, doesn’t mean your boss will respect that law. No one wants to be viewed as a ‘troublemaker’, especially if you work in a low-wage or precarious job. For these reasons (and many others), people often choose to join a trade union rather than enforce your rights alone.
I want to organize a union in my workplace – FAQs
Q: I want to organize a union in my workplace. How do I get started?
A: Often with a simple cup of coffee and a union organizer. Remember, organizing a union is a democratic process, which means the majority of your coworkers have to want a union as well. If you think this is the case, call a local union and ask for the organizing department. Your new organizer will explain the process.
Q: Can I be fired for organizing a union in my workplace?
A: NO. It is your right to form, or try to form, a union in your workplace.
Q: What protections do I have when trying to form a union in my workplace?
A: You are protected from any action that attempts to coerce or intimidate you in your choice to form a union. Your union organizer will help you if you feel like this is happening.
Q: So, if I can’t be fired for organizing a union, and I’m protected from coercion and intimidation, why does forming a union seem so stressful?
A: It’s stressful because in the process of forming a union, you might realize that your boss holds all the power. Do you think your employer wants you to form a union? We know the answer is no. This is because forming a union will give workers an equal voice in the workplace, and representation on the job when things go wrong.
Busting some myths about trade unions
Q: I heard that union dues are hundreds of dollars a month. Is that true?
A: Nope! Not true. Dues are most often between 1.5%-2.5% of your bi-weekly pay amongst Saskatchewan trade unions. And most times, you don’t pay a cent until you have approved your first contract; you wouldn’t approve a contract that left you worse off. Union dues fund the day to day running of your union, the representation you have on the job, and the negotiators that help you bargain your contracts. Best of all, union dues are 100% tax deductible!
Q: Don’t unions just protect ‘bad’ workers?
A: No, and here’s the thing to remember: only management can hire, fire, and discipline workers. One of the things a union does is ensure that everyone is treated fairly, especially when a worker is disciplined or fired; but a union can never fire a worker. It’s up to your boss to fire bad workers, and it’s up to your union to make sure it’s done fairly.
List of Website Resources
- Labour Force Survey, 2015.
- Labour Force Survey, 2014.
- The Minimum Wage in Canada
- Living Wage Regina
- Living Wage Saskatoon
- Who Earns the Minimum Wage?
- Poverty Reduction Strategy – Poverty Free Saskatchewan
- Six Things About Child Poverty in Saskatchewan
- Facts About the Gender Wage Gap in Canada
- Campaign 2000
- Poverty Free Saskatchewan: 2016 Budget
- Hunger Count 2015
- Poverty Costs
- Saskatchewan Employment Act
- Just 62 People Now Own The Same Wealth As Half The World’s Population
- Canada’s 86 Wealthiest Have As Much Wealth As The 114 Million Poorest
- Dispelling Minimum Wage Mythology
- 15 Wage Has Little Impact On Seattle’s Thriving Labour Market
- So Far The Seattle Minimum Wage Increase Is Doing What Its Supposed To Do
- Report: Big Corporations Are Making Huge Profits While Keeping Their Employees Stuck At Minimum Wage
- What Costco’s New Wages Say About the Health of the American Economy
- Minimum Wage Mythbusters
- California’s $15 Minimum Wage: What We Know and Don’t Know
- 15 is Fair
- Henry Ford Understood That Raising Wages Would Bring Him More Profit
- Making Ends Meet
- The “Ripple Effect” of a Minimum Wage Increase on American Workers
- McDonald’s CEO says $15 hourly wage, robots won’t kill jobs