Unifor Local 1-S member Janna Pratt’s seven-year campaign to win the right to take leave from her employment to fulfil her duties to her First Nation was finally realized this month when the Government of Saskatchewan passed Bill 200, The Saskatchewan Employment Amendment Act.
After being nominated to be a councillor for the George Gordon First Nation band in 2013, Pratt was shocked to learn that employment leave for band elections was not specifically covered by the Act. Workers elected to municipal, provincial, or national office have their jobs protected under Saskatchewan law, but that was not extended to First Nation governance structures.
The success with SaskTel led to a resolution submitted by Local 1-S for discussion to the 2016 Saskatchewan Federation of Labour convention. Unions across the province welcomed the idea and it was adopted as SFL policy.
With the support of her union, Unifor, and the labour movement in Saskatchewan, Pratt turned her full attention to the provincial government. She met with NDP MLA David Forbes, who was happy to get involved and later wrote to Labour Relations Minister Don Morgan about amending the law.
Last fall, Pratt’s work paid off when the long-awaited amendment to the Employment Act was introduced in the Saskatchewan throne speech. Dubbed by Forbes “Janna’s Law”, Bill 200 was adopted by the legislature earlier this month.
“There is a growing trend where more and more First Nation people are working off reserve,” said Pratt. “This leave allows our future politicians to bring in their education and experience gained to strengthen First Nation leadership without quitting their job. It was an easy ask especially in the spirit of reconciliation.”
“We’re very proud of Janna’s work,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “She’s proof that Unifor members are making a positive impact in their communities and that unions are a vehicle for improving working conditions for workers.”
Along the way, Pratt’s campaign helped her become more active in Local 1-S, where she is currently a member of the Aboriginal and Workers of Colour Committee, the Women’s Standing Committee, and the Political Action Committee.