Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada

Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada

June 13, 2007 15:10 ET

PIPSC: Landmark Victory for Public Sector Unions at the Supreme Court

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 13, 2007) - "I am delighted that the Supreme Court of Canada - after more than 20 years - has given collective bargaining the constitutional protection it enjoys in most Western countries," said Michele Demers, President of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.

Ms. Demers was referring to a landmark decision, handed down last Friday, in which the Supreme Court used the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to strike down several sections of a B.C. government law, the Health and Social Services Delivery Improvement Act, that had effectively invalidated health-care workers' collective agreements, resulting in mass layoffs.

The 6-1 decision overturned a number of earlier ones, dating from the 1980s, in which the Court had ruled that collective bargaining was not a constitutionally protected right under the Charter.

The Court ruled that the B.C. legislation violated section 2 (d) of the Charter, dealing with freedom of association. The B.C. legislation invalidated contracting-out provisions in health-care collective agreements. It also forbade the inclusion of contracting-out provisions in future collective agreements and invalidated provisions dealing with bumping rights and other protections for laid-off employees.

"While this decision is important for workers in British Columbia, it also has many important implications for public sector unions across Canada," Ms. Demers said. "For one thing, it could potentially open up new bargaining areas for us - issues like classification, staffing, and the pension plan which we aren't able to bargain under the Public Service Labour Relations Act.

For another, it sheds doubt on the constitutionality of laws excluding professionals from unionization rights in several provinces, including Ontario and Alberta. If, as appears likely, these exclusion laws are in fact declared unconstitutional, we and other public sector unions could potentially organize many new members.

It's too early to tell what the exact effects of the Court's decision will be," Demers concluded. "But the next little while should be an exciting time for unions, as the rules around what can and cannot be bargained and what governments can and cannot legislate change in various ways. The first step for us will be to contact other labour unions to discuss how this landmark decision will impact our approach to collective bargaining in the coming round."

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada is a national union representing more than 50,000 professionals and scientists across Canada.

Contact Information

  • Media Enquiries:
    Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada
    Francine Pressault
    613-228-6310 or 1-800-267-0446, ext. 2228