“What we're hoping to accomplish with this publication is to promote greater coordination among unions to ensure that we present strong and cohesive arguments before the Courts.” — CFLR Board member, James Clancy
Ottawa (9 March 2015) — Following the Supreme Court of Canada historic decisions on labour rights issued in January of this year, the Canadian Foundation for Labour Rights (CFLR) has issued a new edition of its publication Backgrounder: Summary of current Charter challenges and their impact on union security in Canada. The publication provides a summary of cases before the courts that challenge labour laws on the basis that they violate Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Updated Backgrounder on Charter challenges reveals impact on union security
The Backgrounder provides summaries of some 28 Charter challenges, is divided into four sections and contains summaries of the following:
- three January 2015 Supreme Court of Canada decisions on labour rights;
- sixteen Charter challenges to restrictive labour laws currently before the courts;
- eight Charter challenges to restrictive labour laws in which a final decision has been rendered in 2013 and 2014, either by the Supreme Court of Canada, or by a lower court, and the decision was not appealed;
- a potential Charter challenge to the federal government’s Bill C-377, which has passed second reading in the Senate.
The publication is updated twice a year. It is intended to inform the labour movement and the union side of the labour law community of cases before the courts that will potentially have an impact on union security in Canada. In addition, it is designed to promote the coordination of legal arguments for similar cases among unions and their legal counsel.
Backgrounder is a timely resource for unions and labour law community
CFLR published the first version of the Backgrounder in January 2013. CFLR recognized the need for this publication, because a great number of challenges against restrictive labour laws were before courts, and in some cases, unions were proceeding with challenges without knowing that another union had a similar challenge against the same legislation.
“What we're hoping to accomplish with this publication is to promote greater coordination among unions to ensure that we present strong and cohesive arguments before the courts,” noted CFLR Board member, and President of the National Union of Public and General Employees NUPGE), James Clancy.
Coordinated efforts by unions at the Supreme Court key to success in recent decisions
Clancy pointed out that there is no better example of the benefit of greater coordination by unions of legal challenges than the recent Supreme Court decision in SFL v. Saskatchewan, granting constitutional protection for the right to strike. The decision, released on January 30, 2015, affirmed the long-standing and widely accepted international principle that the right to strike is a basic human right.
Justice Abella, in writing the decision for the majority, noted, “The right to strike is not merely derivative of collective bargaining, it is an indispensable component of that right. It seems to me to be the time to give this conclusion constitutional benediction.”
For at least three months leading up to the Supreme Court hearing in May 2014, efforts by the CFLR, in conjunction with the Legal Challenges Coordinating Committee of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), helped facilitate a number of meetings between the lead counsel for the SFL and the counsel for the 14 unions that intervened in the case. Those meetings, with the last taking place before the hearing, focused on the various legal arguments the unions were presenting and helped ensure those arguments were as strong as possible, and complemented each other.
“I'm convinced that because of our coordinating efforts, we were able to present the best case at the Supreme Court on behalf of the entire labour movement,” noted Clancy. “It appears that our coordination has paid off with this positive decision for the labour movement.”
The Canadian Foundation for Labour Rights (CFLR) is a national voice devoted to promoting labour rights as an important means to strengthening democracy, equality and economic justice here in Canada and internationally. CFLR was established and is sponsored by the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW Canada).
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 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