16 September 2009

Sullivan and Michael both wrong about government commitment to anti-scab legislation

New Democratic Party leader Lorraine Michael claimed that Danny Williams committed to introduce a law banning replacement workers during strikes.

Human resources, labour and employment minister Susan Sullivan claims that “[t]he government has never made such a commitment.”

Both are off base.

What actually happened is that cabinet ministers John Hickey and Shawn Skinner both indicated in 2007 that the provincial cabinet was reviewing the issue of labour legislation, including the need for anti-scab laws.

Hickey told CBC:

“Minister Skinner has advised me that inside the department, this whole legislation is under review, [and] I have taken the opportunity to review other legislation across the country … so these are issues that we as a government certainly are looking at dealing with.”

Skinner told the House of Assembly that the province’s labour laws were under review:

… I have indicated that the Labour Relations Agency, through its Strategic Partnership Initiative, is undertaking a review of all of the labour legislation in the Province. That will look at whatever the union representatives on that committee and the employer representatives on that committee wish to bring to the table for discussion. Once that review is complete, we will be in a better position at that time to look at the kinds of things will need to be updated in the legislation.

MS. JONES:  …My question today to the minister is: Are you prepared to move up the agenda on anti-scab legislation and have it brought to the House of Assembly so that we do not have situations like we have at Voisey’s Bay in the future?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SKINNER: Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated in my earlier remarks, we do have a strategic partnership between our Labour Relations Agency, the unions and the employers representative groups in this Province. We have a process in place that all parties have agreed to follow, and we will be following that process to do a thorough review and to make sure that any and all issues that are important to the people of this Province, be they employers or be they employees, will be reviewed and will be brought forward for consideration by the government.

We have undertaken that commitment, we will fulfil that commitment, and once we know what the results of that are we will decide then what actions can be taken.

Danny Williams might not have made a commitment about anti-scab legislation but two of his cabinet ministers sure did.

What Sullivan needed to explain is not who made a commitment but why it is taking more than two years to complete a review of the province’s labour laws.

Is this another example of something gone missing in action in the bowels of the Confederation Building?