Responding to Deputy Minister Donna Johnson’s comments today, Saskatchewan’s largest union is strongly disputing the claim that workers will no longer have the right to refuse dangerous work or that COVID-19 will not be regarded as an unusually dangerous hazard by the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety.
“Saskatchewan workers musn’t be exploited by the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan and the dubious claims by a deputy minister that somehow COVID-19 is no longer an unusually dangerous hazard,” responded Judy Henley, president of CUPE Saskatchewan. “We have been in the middle of an unprecedented public health emergency caused by this highly infectious disease, and the deputy minister is misleading us all to now consider working conditions safe. The deputy minister should be cautious of the danger of misleading workers about their rights to workplace health and safety,” said Henley.
According to a news report published by Regina’s 980 CJME radio station today, Deputy Minister Johnson states in an interview: “If there’s no reason to say that the workplace is unsafe, then the employee essentially does not have any ability to refuse work, and so if they choose not to work they are, essentially, telling their employer that they choose not to work anymore.” (Source: www.cjme.com/2020/05/15/labour-ministry-explains-workers-rights-in-sask-during-a-pandemic)
“The suggestion by the Deputy Minister that conversations with the employer should replace the enforcement of workers’ rights is not on. In fact, many workplaces still do not have adequate personal protective equipment or measures to protect their staff,” said Henley. “Workers should never be put in danger because the provincial government is in a rush to re-open the economy. We will be challenging this interpretation every step of the way to protect workers.”
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Notes for media:
- The Saskatchewan Division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE Saskatchewan) represents over 30,000 members in Local Unions working in a variety of public service occupations across the province including: health care, K-12 school system, universities, libraries, municipalities, community-based organizations, and various boards and agencies. CUPE is the largest union in Saskatchewan.
For media enquiries, please contact:
- Nathan Markwart, Executive Assistant & Communications Coordinator, CUPE Saskatchewan Division: 306-537-9426