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UPDATE: Landmark Court Decision Shows Bill 1 Is Unconstitutional

Good afternoon,

Today, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that RCMP members do have the right to unionize. Within that written decision (which can be read in full here), there are a number of statements that reinforce NSGEU’s position that Bill 1 breaches the constitutional rights of 24,000 health care workers in Nova Scotia.

Specifically, the decision reads: “Freedom of association requires, among other things, that no government process can substantially interfere with the autonomy of employees in creating or joining associations of their own choosing, even if in so doing they displace an existing association.”

The decision also states that: “The function of collective bargaining is not served by a process which undermines employees’ rights to choose what is in their interest and how they should pursue those interests. The degree of choice required by the Charter is one that enables employees to have effective input into the selection of their collective goals. This right to participate in the collective is crucial to preserve employees’ ability to advance their own interests, particularly in schemes which involve trade-offs of individual rights to gain collective strength.”

Additionally: “Employee choice may lead to a diversity of associational structures and to competition between associations, but it is a form of exercise of freedom of association that is essential to the existence of employee organizations and to the maintenance of the confidence of members in them.”

This is a landmark decision for unions across the country. But for health care workers here in Nova Scotia, the ruling has a significant bearing: it makes it very clear that this Liberal government has trampled on their rights through the passage of the Health Authorities Act.

We are still awaiting the decision of arbitrator James Dorsey, which we expect to receive on Monday morning. But this decision effectively means that the Liberal government’s Bill 1 will not withstand a constitutional challenge at the Supreme Court level.

Government’s decision to take away workers’ chosen bargaining agents and dismissing out of hand the agreement of the four unions to form bargaining associations – with the support of their members – clearly breaches the constitution.

In light of this ruling, we are respectfully calling on the Minister of Health & Wellness to meet with the four unions and the new CEO of the Provincial Health Authority to discuss the implications of this decision and create a path to positive labour relations, in the interest of all Nova Scotians.

Please stay tuned for further updates from us Monday, and if you are a member working in acute health care, please make every effort to participate in the telephone town hall meeting scheduled for Monday, January 19th at 7:30 p.m.

In solidarity,

Joan Jessome

President, NSGEU

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