Victory! Supreme Court upholds union bargaining rights

The Supreme Court has ruled in favour of a British Columbia teachers’ union in a case that will impact public sector labour relations across Canada.

“This is an important victory for public sector unions across the country,” said Robyn Benson, PSAC National President. “Once again, the highest court has confirmed that we have a right to fair and free collective bargaining.”

PSAC and other public sector unions appeared before the court as intervenors.

BC law interfered with union’s bargaining rights

The case involved the British Columbia Teachers Federation and the B.C. government.

In 2002, the B.C. government passed a law that stripped classroom size and composition clauses from union contracts. A judge later ruled that the law was unconstitutional. But in 2012, the province tried again to adopt similar legislation. That updated law was ruled unconstitutional by the B.C. Supreme Court. The government appealed that ruling and won at the Court of Appeal.

Supreme Court rules quickly in union’s favour

On November 10, the Supreme Court made a rare ruling “from the bench” in favour of the union. The majority of Supreme Court justices agreed that the government of B.C. violated the union’s constitutional rights, “freedom of association, when it deleted certain provisions of the collective agreement and prohibited future bargaining on certain issues.

“This decision confirms that when the government is an employer, they can’t just use their power to legislate what they want at the bargaining table – they must negotiate,” concluded Benson.


November 15, 2016