Queens Bench Right to Strike

Court of Queen’s Bench rules Alberta labour laws violate Charter of Rights

Posted April 02, 2015 in Union Updates, Bills 45 and 46

The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench has ruled that two provincial labour laws violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and has given the government one year to fix them.

Justice D.R.G. Thomas ruled that Section 96 of the Labour Relations Code and Section 70 of the Public Service Employee Relations Act – both of which take away the right to strike for tens of thousands of public-sector workers — violate the Charter.

Justice Thomas gave the government until April 1, 2016 to rewrite the offending sections.

“This is a significant victory for working people in this province,” said Jason Heistad, executive-secretary treasurer with the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, which challenged the legislation. “For too long, thousands of Albertans have been denied a fundamental right in labour relations. This ruling will help fix that injustice.”

The Alberta decision comes in the wake of a January Supreme Court of Canada ruling that stuck down essential-services legislation in Saskatchewan which severely limited public employees’ right to strike. In that case, Patrick Nugent, AUPE’s legal counsel, argued in support of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, which had challenged that province’s laws.

“The Saskatchewan ruling brought into question Alberta’s legislation, some of which dates back to the 1970s,” said Nugent. “The Alberta Court’s ruling recognizes that Alberta’s broad prohibitions on the right to strike of public sector employees could not stand.”

AUPE had challenged the Labour Relations Code and Public Service Employee Relations Act provisions in the context of its challenge to Bill 45, the Public Sector Services Continuation Act , which restricted Albertans’ freedom of association and imposed draconian fines on anyone connected with an illegal strike. The repeal of Bill 45 left only the issue of the no-strike provisions to be addressed and those have now been struck down.

For more information, contact:
Patrick Nugent, AUPE legal counsel: (780) 439-3232(780) 439-3232
Andrew Hanon, AUPE communications: (780) 932-7644(780) 932-7644