In the face of a looming court date, the Liberal government has finally set in place interim measures to suspend application of unconstitutional legislation to current collective agreement talks.
Letter from Minister Scott Brison
Minister Scott Brison issued a letter at the eleventh hour before government lawyers would have been required to appear in court. The letter commits to restoring rights to dispute resolution mechanisms, essential services, the constitutionally protected right to strike and allowing a fair consideration of all factors and issues relevant to collective bargaining.
“Make no mistake, our members fought long and hard with two different governments to achieve this victory,”,” said Robyn Benson, National President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
“It is through their unrelenting activism, lobbying their MPs, raising awareness and supporting our bargaining teams, that the basic bargaining rights denied to us have been restored.”
Bill C4-division 17: background
Fundamental bargaining rights were denied to public service workers when Division 17 of Bill C-4 was passed when the Harper government was in power.
This bill placed severe restrictions on the right to strike. It would have also denied public service workers recourse before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, among other punitive changes.
Bill C-4 also blocked any legal challenges to the government’s unilateral decisions around what was an essential service in a strike situation.
Labour board conciliators were severely limited as to what issues or “factors” they could consider in making recommendations to resolve labour disputes.
Liberals pushed forward despite Supreme Court Ruling
Despite a clear 2015 ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada that portions of similar legislation passed in Saskatchewan were unconstitutional, the Liberals allowed C-4 (and its unlawful restrictions on basic Charter freedoms of expression and association) to remain in place.
While the Liberal government has now promised to repeal the harmful portions of C-4, this would take several months, too late to address the collective agreement negotiations currently underway for tens of thousands of workers in the public service. It is for this reason that PSAC pushed hard to achieve interim redress and win the government’s agreement to take immediate steps to restore bargaining rights.
Back at the table this month
Collective bargaining for federal public service workers within Treasury Board, Parks and CFIA is set to resume this month.