The largest federal public sector union has taken the first step in its legal challenge against Bill C-4, which they say has gutted the collective bargaining rights of its employees.
On March 24, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), officially filed its constitutional challenge against the federal government’s omnibus budget bill at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
In it, PSAC alleged that giving the employer an arbitrary right to declare certain services as “essential” is unconstitutional. As well, dispute resolution mechanisms — particularly arbitration — would become restricted. Whereas unions are free to choose between walking off the job or going the binding arbitration route, Bill C-4 would limit those options.
“The bill was drafted with no consultation with public sector bargaining agents and eliminates labour rights gained over the last 50 years, and severely undermines the ability of federal employees to negotiate on a fair playing field,” PSAC said.
Tabled last October, the government’s budget bill introduced sweeping changes to federal labour relations, such as giving the government the ability to declare its services as essential (and therefore limiting the workers’ ability to walk off the job as a negotiating tactic). Under Bill C-4, the Public Service Labour Relations Act would also be amended to make it illegal to strike if 80 per cent or more of bargaining unit members are declared to be part of an essential service. As well, the legislation limits the use of arbitration for resolving disputes.
At the end of 2013, federal public sector unions pooled resources ahead of this year’s scheduled round of collective bargaining with the Treasury Board to legally challenge Bill C-4.
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