Danny Cavanagh, President of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, is pleased to see another win respecting union members’ rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to fair and free collective bargaining.
Yesterday, Justice McKelvey of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench ruled that the Manitoba government’s wage freeze law, the Public Services Sustainability Act (Bill 28), interfered with collective bargaining in violation of the Charter. The court challenge was brought by the Manitoba Federation of Labour and 28 unions.
Justice McKelvey stated the Bill was “… a draconian measure which limits and reduces a union’s bargaining power…and inhibits the union’s ability to trade off monetary benefits for non-monetary enhancements, such as protection from contracting out, job security, and layoffs. It has left no room for a meaningful collective bargaining process on issues crucial to union memberships.”
Cavanagh states that the Manitoba judgment, like the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation case, sets another strong precedent for the constitutional challenge being brought by Nova Scotia unions to Nova Scotia’s Public Services Sustainability (2015) Act in the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal. Bill 148 was an even more severe and brazen interference with collective bargaining given that it not only imposed wage freezes and wage caps but also deleted service award provisions in collective agreements, provisions that had been bargained in good faith over decades.
Nova Scotia’s constitutional challenge has been held up because of the Nova Scotia government’s refusal to disclose Cabinet documents relevant to Bill 148, and its argument that the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal does not have the power to force it to disclose the documents. These are the same Cabinet documents that the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, and now the Court of Appeal, has already ordered the government to produce in the Nova Scotia Teachers Union challenge to Bill 75.