"The Ford government is willfully violating the Charter rights of the Power Workers of Ontario and is trampling on the collective bargaining process by ending a strike that has not even started." — Larry Brown, NUPGE President
Ottawa (20 Dec. 2018) — Engaging in fearmongering and claiming that Ontarians will celebrate Christmas in the cold and dark if they do not act, the Ford government has tabled legislation to end a strike that does not even officially exist. Bill 67, Labour Relations Amendment Act (Protecting Ontario's Power Supply), 2018 is being rushed through by the Ford Conservatives, whose majority in the Ontario legislature guarantees it will be passed. The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) strongly rejects the Ford government’s violation of the Charter rights of the Power Workers’ Union and calls on Ontario to respect the rule of law and collective bargaining rights.
"To legislate workers back to work when they are still working is a clear subversion of the collective bargaining process, and using back-to-work legislation to deny collective bargaining rights is a clear violation of the Canadian Charter," said Larry Brown, NUPGE President. Brown continued, "Some governments seem to feel they can ignore Canadian court rulings and that they are somehow above the courts and the rule of law. This should concern all Canadians, especially since the Supreme Court has already ruled that workers have the right to strike."
Supreme Court ruling protects collective bargaining
In Saskatchewan Federation of Labour v Saskatchewan, 2015 SCC 4, "the Supreme Court ruled that the right to strike is an ‘indispensable component’ of the right to meaningful collective bargaining under the guarantee of freedom of association in s.2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms" (Lancaster House as reported in CanLII). This ruling was referenced in 2016 when Justice Stephen Firestone, of the Ontario Superior Court, struck down Bill C-6, Stephen Harper's 2011 back-to-work legislation. Federal Bill C-6 targeted the postal workers who were on rotating strikes.
The workers of the Power Workers' Union have a right to reject the contract offer by their employer. Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) actions are inflaming the situation rather than working towards a fair settlement of the outstanding issues. NUPGE commends these workers who are demanding that 300 term workers receive the same rights as full time workers. Brown also commended the power workers as highly trained and highly conscientious workers who every day ensure that the people of Ontario have the electricity they need.
Exercise good faith and get back to the bargaining table
"The collective bargaining process requires both sides to go into the negotiation with good faith," said Larry Brown. "The Ford government seems undeterred by court rulings and does not hesitate to implement legislation that it knows violates the Canadian Charter." Brown was referring to Doug Ford's previous choice to invoke the Charter's notwithstanding clause after a court ruled his legislation cutting Toronto City Council was in violation of the Charter. The notwithstanding clause allows provinces to temporarily set aside charter rights.
Invoking the notwithstanding clause and introducing back to work legislation, within 6 months of taking office, clearly signals the Ford government’s willingness to ignore Canadian’s Charter rights. OPG and the Ford government should be actively negotiating with power workers towards a fair settlement. This is how to reach a fair and balanced collective agreement. There is still time to negotiate a settlement, instead both OPG and the Ontario government have rejected the opportunity to negotiate with workers in favour of actions which violate workers’ Charter rights. Governments need to put an end to flagrantly denying workers their Charter rights and respect the collective bargaining process.
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