Courts protect organizing rights over anti-union Charter challenge.
Ottawa (06 Feb. 2017) — The notorious anti-union Merit Contractors Association suffered a defeat at the Supreme Court of Canada on February 2. Merit attempted to use the sections 2 (b) and 2 (d) of the Charter to suggest that Manitoba Hydro’s policy of having employees join designated unions to be able to work on major hydroelectric projects was a violation of the workers’ rights of freedom of expression and freedom of association.
Courts reject anti-union construction giant's bid to weaken worker rights
The courts have clearly rejected these assertions, and the Supreme Court’s rejection of the appeal represents the third loss for the anti-union forces in this case. There has been a long-standing directive on many of these massive projects that workers have designated union representation designed to protect the rights of workers and ensure all are treated equitably by having proper representation.
Merit was seeking to deny this representation to the workers by filing their Charter challenge. Over 5 years, Merit lost at the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench, lost after appealing to the Manitoba Court of Appeal, and finally lost in a February 2, 2017, ruling at the Supreme Court of Canada when Merit’s final appeal was dismissed with costs.
Judges award costs against Merit Construction
The judges at the Supreme Court of Canada and the Manitoba Court of Appeal both awarded costs against Merit, which means that they must pay the legal costs incurred by Manitoba Hydro and the other defendants, including the Locals of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers, IBEW Local 2034 and Operating Engineers Local 987. This decision can be seen as a signal that the courts did not see that Merit’s appeals of this case served the broader public interest, which would have been a reason to waive costs.
Merit will continue to attack organized labour in Canada, but this is a clear victory for workers and a defeat for those who continue to use the Charter and the rights of the individual to undermine long-standing collective rights considered crucial.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE