N.S. union takes government to court over labour law

Essential services ruling strips inherent bargaining rights: Union
|labour-reporter.com|Last Updated: 05/21/2014

The union representing government employees in Nova Scotia is taking the province to court.

On May 20, the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) filed a statement of claim with the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, denouncing the hotly-contested Bill 30 (otherwise known as the Essential Home Support Services Act) as a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Passed in March, Bill 30 ended a strike of more than 400 home support staff at Northwood Homecare in Halifax. The government declared those employees as part of an essential service, and therefore forced them back to work.

According to the NSGEU, that ruling infringed on the workers’ right to bargain collectively and revoked their inherent charter rights.

“Bill 30 is a clear abuse of power by the (Premier Stephen) McNeil government — the provisions of this legislation are very clearly designed to undermine our members’ right to strike and their right to full and free collective bargaining,” said Joan Jessome, president of the NSGEU.

Moving west, the Supreme Court last week began proceedings regarding a legal challenge launched by the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL). The labour group argued essential services legislation and changes made to the Trade Union Act — which restricts certain public workers from walking off the job during a strike — is a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The forthcoming SFL decision could set a precedent and hold weight in the NSGEU case.

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