SEIU-West is happy to announce a huge win for members across the province: SEIU-West filed grievances at a particular facility when it was reported that the Employer was scheduling shifts of 6.5 hours with no meal break. The Employer countered that the collective agreement language was not clear with respect to those specific shifts. SEIU-West therefore advised members to file complaints with the Employment Standards Enforcement since The Saskatchewan Employment Act (SEA) says workers are entitled to a meal break after 5 consecutive hours of work. The Enforcement Branch responded by saying they were not obliged to represent unionized workers. SEIU-West was then advised that our union is a person before the law (we are our members!) and can also file a complaint as a person. After SEIU-West filed a complaint, the Enforcement Branch assigned an Investigator who determined that the Employer was violating the SEA and must stop. The Employer responded by saying they provide coffee breaks so the shifts are not considered to be 5 hours of consecutive work. The Investigator held that coffee breaks do not count since they are paid time, break or not. The Investigator also recommended that the parties resolve the matter with a letter of understanding (LOU) which will then be reviewed by the Investigator. We have drafted that LOU and are awaiting the Employer’s response.  What is vital about this win is the Enforcement Branch has upheld that Employers cannot negotiate a lower standard than what is outlined in the SEA, and that coffee breaks do not count for the purposes of calculating worked hours. Most importantly, we know the Enforcement Branch will take action on unionized workplaces if there is a violation of the SEA. And last but certainly not least, there are several collective agreement provisions negotiated under old legislation which allow for meal breaks only after 5.5 and as much as 7.5 hours of work – all of these will have to be changed or addressed through LOUs, which SEIU-West is currently undertaking. This is a collective win for workers throughout Saskatchewan!

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