A panel of three Supreme Court justices recently decided the Supreme Court of Canada will hear the case against Saskatchewan’s recent overhaul of provincial labour law.
The challenge comes from the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL). The SFL, which represents more than 100,000 workers in 37 unions across the province, says the essential services legislation and the amendments to the province’s Trade Union Act violate workers’ rights. These changes were covered under Saskatchewan’s Bills 5 and 6.
“It is extremely unfortunate that we find ourselves in this position,” said SFL president Larry Hubich. “Obviously, we would rather not be forced into taking our government to court. Unfortunately, however, Bills 5 and 6 represent significant infringements upon the fundamental rights of Saskatchewan working people… We believe it is our responsibility to challenge laws that appear to be unconstitutional, particularly when they concern people’s basic rights at work.”
The changes to the Trade Union Act require an anonymous ballot vote before a union can be certified. The SFL claims this will make it more difficult to unionize. The province, however, argues these requirements bring more democracy to the workplace.
The changes also restrict how many public sector workers can withdraw their services at any given time, which the government argues protects public safety during labour action.
“We believe it is time for the Supreme Court of Canada to recognize that Saskatchewan people, and all Canadians, enjoy a right to strike that is constitutionally protected,” Hubich said. “We are also asking for a declaration that the 2008 changes to the Saskatchewan Trade Union Act substantially interfere with workers’ right to form unions of their own choosing, for the purpose of bargaining collectively with their employers.”
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