Legal victory for workers: judge rules public sector wage freeze legislation unconstitutional

"The act ... is a draconian measure which limits and reduces a union's bargaining power...and inhibits the union's ability to trade off monetary benefits for non-monetary enhancements, such as protection from contracting out, job security, and layoffs. It has left no room for a meaningful collective bargaining process on issues crucial to union memberships." — Justice McKelvey, Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench

partnership to defend public services
Kevin Rebeck, President, Manitoba Federation of Labour, 
Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU President with other members of the 
Partnership to Defend Public Services

Winnipeg (12 June 2020) — After 3 long years of standing up for the rights of public sector workers to negotiate their wages with the Pallister government, June 11 was victory day.

Collective bargaining rights upheld by Manitoba court

Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench Justice McKelvey has ruled that the government's wage freeze law, the Public Services Sustainability Act (Bill 28), and its actions to impede collective bargaining with Manitoba's public sector workers are a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In the ruling, she agreed with the evidence put forward last fall by the Partnership to Defend Public Services (PDPS) — a coalition of public sector unions in which the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU/NUPGE) played an active and leading role — and strongly rejected the government's legal arguments, cautioning them to stop interfering with collective bargaining in the public sector.

For instance, she stated the act "... is a draconian measure which limits and reduces a union's bargaining power...and inhibits the union's ability to trade off monetary benefits for non-monetary enhancements, such as protection from contracting out, job security, and layoffs. It has left no room for a meaningful collective  bargaining process on issues crucial to union memberships."

MGEU/NUPGE plays important role in coalition

"I am deeply proud of the many contributions our staff made to the PDPS case, including researching supporting documents, reviewing affidavits and bargaining notes, meeting with our lawyers to prepare for the trial, and giving evidence," said Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU President. "Our hope now is that we will be able to return to the bargaining table and negotiate fair collective agreements for our members without heavy-handed tactics from the government."

Gawronsky pointed out that throughout the pandemic crisis, thousands of MGEU/NUPGE members have been working incredibly hard, under incredibly trying and stressful conditions, while at the same time, the government's disrespectful approach in dealing with its own public sector workers have taken a toll.

"This victory, however, should give us all reason for hope," she said. "We can now move forward with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on our side, in the hope the Pallister government can see the writing on the wall. Fairness and respect towards hard-working people matters more than ever to Manitobans. The time has come for the Pallister government to change course and start treating dedicated public sector workers with the respect they deserve."

"Yet another court has ruled that government interference in bargaining is a violation of the Charter," said Larry Brown, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE). "When are governments going to stop trampling on the human rights of workers and instead come to the table in good faith and negotiate fairly?"

"Congratulations to the MGEU/NUPGE, the Manitoba Federation of Labour and the rest of the Partnership on this victory," said Brown. "Workers across the country thank you."

NUPGE Components
Issues and Campaigns
Occupational Groups

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 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