Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Advanced Education, Employment and Labour refusing to disclose OH&S and Workers’ Compensation Act records; 8th denial since May 2008



First it was essential services legislation (which Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall said on Sept. 21, 2007, wouldn’t necessarily be required to set out essential services) and amendments to The Trade Union Act. Then it was exploiting young teens by lowering the minimum age of employment to age 15 in hotels, restaurants, educational institutions, hospitals and nursing homes to fill gaps in the labour market. Next it was amendments to The Construction Industry Labour Relations Act. Now the Saskatchewan Party government appears to have its sights set on attacking two more pieces of labour legislation.

In February an access to information request was submitted to the Ministry of Advanced Education, Employment and Labour (AEEL) for “copies of any reviews, analysis or studies that have been conducted by or for the provincial government since May 1, 2008 of The Occupational Health and Safety Act and The Workers’ Compensation Act.”

The Mar. 24 response from AEEL deputy minister Wynne Young said the request was denied pursuant to section 17 of The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which reads in part: “a head may refuse to give access to a record that could reasonably be expected to disclose: (a) advice, proposals, recommendations or analyses or policy options developed by or for the government institution or a member of the Executive Council.”

AEEL violated the law for failing to apply section 8 of the Act. This part of the legislation is mandatory stating: “Where a record contains information to which an applicant is refused access, the head shall give access to as much of the record as can reasonably be severed without disclosing the information to which the applicant is refused access.” The ministry doesn’t seem to care, though, because it has done this on a number of other occasions.

This latest refusal represents the eighth time since May 2008 that AEEL has denied access to labour related records. AEEL obviously has some big secrets to keep.

One can only assume the denial means that the Wall government intends to introduce at some point changes to the OH&S and Workers’ Compensation Acts. This comes as no surprise and seems consistent with AEEL’s 2009-10 work plan that was released in conjunction with the provincial budget on Mar. 18. Page 8 of the plan states that part of the ministry’s strategy to foster productive, safe and competitive workplaces is to “Develop and implement labour legislation that effectively supports a safe, competitive, fair and balanced labour environment.”

What this means is that the Wall government will work behind closed-doors, introduce changes to legislation, then consult with people afterwards, which by then is too late. There in no reason to believe that this same tactic won’t be used with the OH&S and Workers’ Compensation Acts.

As the MLA for Swift Current, Brad Wall once blamed “red tape and regulations” through the WCB, occupational health and safety and various pieces of labour legislation for driving “businesses and the jobs they create and the taxes they pay out of the province of Saskatchewan.” [Saskatchewan Hansard, June 20, 2000]

Now in power Wall’s right wing government is slowly working its way through the province’s labour legislation to placate the business lobby it answers to.

Below is a list of the seven other requests for information that AEEL has refused:

Feb. 23, 2009: Access denied to copies of any reviews or analyses that have been conducted by or for the Government of Saskatchewan since Nov.1, 2008 of The Trade Union Act and The Labour Standards Act; and also copies of any briefing notes and memorandums from May 1, 2008 to Jan. 22, 2009 regarding The Trade Union Act and The Labour Standards Act.

Jan. 20, 2009: Access denied to any briefing notes and memorandums, including any attachments, from Feb. 1, 2008 to Nov. 30, 2008 regarding the essential services legislation.

Jan. 20, 2009: Access denied to any memorandums, including any attachments from Nov. 7, 2007 to Dec. 31, 2007 regarding or relating to essential services legislation.

Jan. 20, 2009: Access denied to any briefing notes, letters and memorandums, including attachments, from Oct. 1, 2008 to Dec. 23, 2008 regarding or relating to the minimum wage regulations and the amendment to allow workers age 15 and older to obtain employment in hotels, restaurants, educational institutions, hospitals and nursing homes.

Jan. 19, 2009: Access denied to any reviews or analyses that have been conducted by or for the Government of Saskatchewan since May 1, 2008 of The Trade Union Act and The Labour Standards Act.

May 22, 2008: Access denied to the daily appointment and meeting schedules for Minister Rob Norris and Deputy Minister Wynne Young from Dec. 1, 2008 to Mar. 14, 2008.

May 13, 2008: Access was denied to the contract and any correspondence between the Government of Saskatchewan and management lawyer Kevin Wilson from Nov. 8, 2007 to Feb. 29, 2008. Wilson was hired to provide advice on the government’s essential services legislation.

1 Comments:

At 8:25 AM, Blogger Fraud Blogger said...

This is work being paid for by the taxpayers. It is completely unnacceptable that the government even has the right to sweep this stuff under the rug, especially since public funds are being used to pay for it. Yes, these are controversial positions, either to labour, to the business community, or to working people themselves, but they should at least see the light of day so that the appropriate policy debates can be had.

 

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