“We need OHS provisions the recognize shifting employer, employee relationships and that the burdens of work in the 21st century are acknowledged.”
NDP MLA Carla Beck, who serves as the Opposition’s labour critic, said the very nature of work has changed since The Saskatchewan Employment Act was last cracked open in 2012.
The party is calling for a few specific things: an expansion of OHS to all workers including contract and gig workers, “comprehensive protections” for interpersonal violence and sexual harassment, provisions to educate employees and employers about the impact of harassment and to provide mental health supports.
The province’s review, which began in August, is statutory but the Opposition is hoping there will be greater protection and workplace education for vulnerable workers in Saskatchewan, especially those working for app-based businesses and those in creatives fields.
“The very nature of work has been rewritten,” Beck said. “We need OHS provisions the recognize shifting employer, employee relationships and that the burdens of work in the 21st century are acknowledged.”
Models, musicians, gig workers, taxi and delivery drivers all fall outside the purviews of certain protections, according to Beck.
“Expanding OHS standards to include contract and gig workers would especially decrease workplace violence against women and racialized workers,” said Beck.
The MLA said the expansion of OHS protections is not all the Opposition is looking for; they also want comprehensive provisions for domestic violence, sexual harassment and to provide training for employees and employers surrounding mental health.
Citing a study conducted by the federal government, Beck said 30 per cent of workers experience sexual harassment in the workplace, while 20 per cent experience violence.
“Respondents said the lack of institutional support has been a top risk factor for violence and harassment in the workplace,” said Beck.
In an emailed statement from the government, a spokesperson with the Ministry of Labour said it was still too early in the process to comment on feedback the ministry has received.
But, the spokesperson said the review would focus on topics, “including violence prevention programs, right to refuse unusually dangerous work, roles of occupational health committees, and other relevant matters that have been identified by interested parties.”
The government is encouraging people to write in to offer suggestions on how Occupational Health and Safety provisions can be improved. Submissions are to be sent in no later than Oct. 18.
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