Today, the Canadian labour movement is celebrating yet another win for workers, as the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the right to strike is protected in the constitution.
“This is a historic decision which recognizes that the right of workers to strike is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” says NSGEU President Joan Jessome.
The ruling means it is now beyond dispute that Nova Scotia’s Bill 30 and 37, which were passed by the McNeil government in 2014, infringe on the rights of workers, as protected by Section 2D of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“We are thrilled that the right to strike is now included as a protected provision in the Charter,” says Jessome, “There is now no doubt that taking away home support and health care workers’ right to strike was an infringement that could not be justified.”
“This is the second time in less than two weeks that Premier McNeil has been found to be on the wrong side of a Supreme Court of Canada ruling,” Jessome points out, “It’s high time that this government realizes that workers in Canada do, in fact, have rights that need to be respected, regardless of government’s own political agenda.”
In a 5 to 2 ruling, Supreme Court justices struck down Saskatchewan’s Essential Services legislation, ruling that the freedom of association protects the right of workers to collective bargaining and to exercise a right to strike to support their collective bargaining demands. On this basis, the Court concluded that Saskatchewan’s essential services legislation infringed the constitutional rights of employees designated to work during a strike.
The court also considered whether the infringement on the right to strike in the Saskatchewan legislation could be justified as a reasonable limit under Section 1 of the Charter, and concluded that it could not. An infringement on a constitutional right is only justifiable if it minimally impairs that right to achieve a pressing and substantial objective. The Saskatchewan legislation did not meet that requirement.
Considering today’s ruling, Bills 30 and 37 are clearly unconstitutional. The arbitration process outlined in Nova Scotia’s legislation is very difficult to get into, and is very restrictive, allowing the Minister of Labour & Advanced Education to select both the form of arbitration and the arbitrator, who must take into consideration the government’s ability to pay. These restrictions go too far and do not meet the test of minimal impairment.
Bills 30 and 37 are being challenged in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court by The Federation of Labour and several unions, including the NSGEU. The Supreme Court’s decision only encourages us to proceed with our constitutional challenges.
-30-The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union represents over 30,000 women and men who provide quality public services Nova Scotian’s count on every day. For more information, please contact: Holly Fraughton, NSGEU Communications Officer 424.4063 (office) 471.1781 (cell) firstname.lastname@example.org