Sask Writers' Guild: Respect your workers' right to unionize
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In early June, staff at the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild (SWG) initiated a union drive hoping to secure more respect in the workplace and a greater voice in their conditions of work. Unfortunately, the Board of Directors of the Writers’ Guild chose to respond to the union application, filed on their behalf by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), by hiring an expensive management lawyer well-known in Saskatchewan for representing Wal-Mart against workers’ attempts to unionize.
The Board of Directors then filed a legal objection to the union application with the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board (LRB), arguing that the accountant position should not be in the union and that, in general, staff at the SWG do not have the right to unionize. Because of the board’s legal action, the official ballots of SWG staff will remain frozen at the LRB until a costly hearing is held at the end of September.
On June 29 CUPE offered to concede the accountant position if the SWG would withdraw its other objections. CUPE never received a reply to this offer.
CUPE then sent two separate letters directly to each SWG board member on behalf of SWG staff, first on July 12 and again on August 4, explaining the facts and clarifying the board’s responsibilities as the employer in this situation.
In response to the July 12 letter, the SWG board held a special meeting and empowered board president Jack Walton – whose signature is on the board’s formal legal objection to the union application – to send out a misleading letter to the Guild’s nearly 500 members. The letter did not inform the Guild’s membership about the Board of Directors’ formal legal challenge to the union application.
Most recently, as pressure from SWG members has begun to bear on the Board, the SWG Board has offered to drop its overarching objections but has added a new objection. As of August 15, the Board is insisting that the position of administrative assistant, the most entry-level position in the organization, should be outside the union. This would place fully 50 per cent – four of eight workers – outside the union. This is unreasonable.
We the undersigned call on the SWG Board of Directors – Jack Walton, Paula Jane Remlinger, Tom Kroczynski, Rachel Laverdiere, Trevor Herriot, Jillian Bell, Courtney Bates-Hardy, and Jeanette Montgomery – to respect their staff’s constitutional right to form a union, to withdraw their legal challenge before the Labour Relations Board, to withdraw their demand that the administrative assistant be out of scope, and to allow the ballots of SWG staff to be counted without further delay.
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