Government has one year to make changes to Alberta's labour laws that violate workers' Charter rights.
Edmonton (08 April 2015) — The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench has determined that two Alberta laws passed by the Conservative government violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Workers win challenge to overly restrictive labour laws
The two laws were challenged by the United Nurses of Alberta and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees for taking away thousands of workers' right to strike. The ruling, made by Justice D.R. G. Thomas, says that Section 96 of the Labour Relations Code and Section 70 of the Public Service Employee Relations Act violate the Charter. When the provincial government decided to repeal Bill 45, The Public Service Continuation Act, the two challenges to the no-strike provisions remained.
The Court has given the Alberta government a year to make changes that are in accordance with the Charter.
This ruling comes on the heels of another judgement against a provincial government trying to limit workers' right to strike. In January 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) ruled against the Saskatchewan government's imposition of essential service legislation which severely limited workers' right to take job action. The law essentially deemed the majority of workers as essential, therefore undermining unionized workers' ability to take action if collective bargaining negotiations reached an impasse.
Alberta Court relied on SCC ruling in Saskatchewan
While the ruling affected Saskatchewan workers, the Alberta Court relied on the SCC's ruling to decide on the Alberta cases.
"This ruling confirms what we have known for decades," says James Clancy, National President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE). "Alberta's labour laws that deny some 200,000 public sector workers the right to strike are contrary to basic principles of freedom of association. Those laws have been the subject of numerous complaints by our union to the International Labour Organization dating back to 1982."
"In each case, the ILO ruled that Alberta's labour laws violate international human rights standards and urged the government to amend its legislation to give workers the basic human right to withdraw their labour," Clancy continued. "Our Supreme Court confirmed the right to strike as a basic human right of all Canadian workers in Jannuary 2015. We're pleased that the Alberta court has followed the well-reasoned decision of our Supreme Court and what the well-respected ILO has been telling the government for many years."
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