Supreme Court Ruling

AUPE to scrutinize Alberta labour laws in wake of Supreme Court ruling

Posted January 30, 2015 in Government Services

Alberta’s largest union welcomes the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision to strike down a Saskatchewan law severely restricting workers’ right to strike.

“This ruling calls into question all kinds of existing legislation here in Alberta,” said Edmonton lawyer Patrick Nugent, who serves as outside counsel for the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees. “We’ll be reviewing it very carefully in the coming weeks to see how it applies here.”

The ruling strikes down Saskatchewan’s essential services legislation, which severely limited public sector employees’ right to strike. AUPE intervened in support of the position ultimately adopted by the Court and made oral submissions at the hearing.

The Supreme Court ruling says, “The right to strike is not merely derivative of collective bargaining, it is an indispensable component of that right. It seems to me to be the time to give this conclusion constitutional benediction.” (para. 3)

It also states: “The fact that a service is provided exclusively through the public sector does not inevitably lead to the conclusion that it is properly considered ‘essential’. In some circumstances, the public may well be deprived of a service as a result of strike action without being deprived of any essential service at all that would justifiably limit the ability to strike during negotiations.” (para. 85)

The court determined that the legislation violated the Charter right to freedom of association.

The majority of public sector workers in Alberta, including direct government employees, health care workers and post-secondary employees, currently do not have the right to strike.

“The right to strike is constitutionally protected in Canada,” said Nugent. “Some governments try to get around this by imposing sweeping legislation declaring ‘essential services.’ This ruling sets a higher threshold for what can be declared essential and establishes that even when a prohibition on striking is justifiable, there must be a fair, meaningful mechanism for resolving disputes.”

He added: “a truly fair and equitable process would be unlikely to include legislated terms and conditions such as wage freezes or rollbacks.”


Right now the University Of Calgary is deemed to be a ESSENTIAL SERVICE and we are not legally allowed to strike

1 comment (Add your own)

1. Robert Vowel wrote:
As always there are ways to "Bully" when negotiations entertain "Monetary Values" concerning any working person and certainly "Essential Service" is one of those ways, however, if an action puts peoples lives at stake then essential is the correct term on those occasions. I believe to save time and money for both parties a third party bargaining agent that has "ALL" the facts necessary to convene in fair practice negotiations should be the first step to remove the need to "Strike" after all we should all be part of the "TEAM" to ensure a healthy economy, fair wages, and everything else that our truly free society believes in. At the same time Unions, in the case of life safety commitments, need to ensure that those instances will be supported without prejudice,penalty,or any sort of abuse during negotiations and further rewarded during these times. Of course third party agents would have to be totally independent of either cause to be equally fair in this process. There would also be a need to have a set of conditions or rules to work towards a timely conclusion.

Fri, February 13, 2015 @ 6:38 AM

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