Wage restraint legislation in 2009 federal budget to face constitutional challenge

Restricting the ability of public sector unions to negotiate pay rates and compensation with their employers violates the rights to freedom of association guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Ottawa (16 April 6, 2009) – An application with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice challenging the constitutionality of Part 10 the Expenditure Restraint Act (ERA), of the Budget Implementation Act (BIA) – known as Bill C-10 – has been filed by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), the union which represents 57,000 professionals and scientists in the federal public sector.

The ERA, which received Royal Assent on March 12, 2009, restricts the ability of public sector unions to negotiate pay rates and compensation with their employers. It unilaterally sets national rates of pay of 2.3%, 1.5%, 1.5% and 1.5% from 2006-2011, for employees of Treasury Board and all other government-affiliated agencies.

PIPS court challenge alleges that the act violates the rights to freedom of association guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “By restricting the ability of public sector unions and employees to negotiate pay rates and compensation with their employers, the ERA violates the rights to freedom of association guaranteed by the Charter, compromises the essential integrity of the collective bargaining process, retroactively invalidates provisions of existing collective agreements, and undermines future bargaining.”

The Supreme Court of Canada recognized in 2007 that the process of collective bargaining is protected by the Charter.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the largest federal public sector union in Canada representing 165,000 federal employees, has stated that it is also committed to fighting the legislation. Bill C-10 effectively breaks the collective agreement PSAC negotiated in 2008 on behalf of its members employed by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The agreement negotiated with CRA provided PSAC members with wage increases of 2.5% for 2007, 2008 and 2009 – above the limits set in the ERA.

PIPS is also challenging Part 11 of the BIA, the Equitable Compensation Act, which forces unionized employees and their employers to deal with pay equity through the collective bargaining process.

“By turning pay equity into a bargaining chip that can be traded off against other considerations during negotiations, the Act goes against the fundamental right to equal pay for work of equal value protected by the Canadian Human Rights Act, and equality rights enshrined in the Charter. It entrenches gender discrimination by limiting pay equity protections through such measures as prohibiting unions from assisting their members to file or proceed with pay equity complaints.”

NUPGE

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

 

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