"This landmark decision recognizes that collective bargaining is a right
for all workers, and it affirms that labour rights are human rights." -
NUPGE President James Clancy
OTTAWA, June 8 /CNW Telbec/ - The Supreme Court of Canada declared Friday
for the first time that the collective bargaining rights of workers are
protected by the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms and are also a
fundamental aspect of Canadian society predating the Charter.
The 6-1 ruling arises from a 2002 case in which the Liberal government of
British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell arbitrarily cancelled the contracts
of thousands of health care workers and allowed for mass layoffs outside the
collective bargaining process.
The top court ruled that several sections of the B.C. legislation
(Bill 29) violated Section 2 of the Charter, which protects freedom of
association. The court also rejected earlier Supreme Court decisions that
excluded collective bargaining from the Charter's protection saying those
decisions do not withstand principled scrutiny.
"We conclude that Section 2(d) of the Charter protects the capacity of
members of labour unions to engage, in association, in collective bargaining
on fundamental workplace issues," Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Justice
Louis Lebel wrote in the majority court decision.
The court further noted that collective bargaining complements, promotes
and enhances fundamental Charter values such as equality and democracy:
"Recognizing that workers have the right to bargain collectively as part of
their freedom to associate reaffirms, enhances and promotes the values of
dignity, personal autonomy, equality and democracy that are inherent in the
The ruling also made a notable link between Canadian rights protected by
the Charter and those in international treaties signed by Canada as a member
of the United Nations (UN) and International Labour Organization (ILO).
"The Charter should be presumed to provide at least as great a level of
protection as is found in the international human rights documents that Canada
has ratified," the justices declared.
James Clancy, president of the 340,000-member National Union of Public
and General Employees (NUPGE), said the decision is one of the most important
rulings for Canadian workers ever rendered by Canada's top court.
"This landmark decision recognizes that collective bargaining is a human
right for all workers, and it affirms that labour rights are human rights."
"It is a tremendous victory for workers across Canada because it applies
not only to British Columbia but to all governments at all levels. As a result
we now expect governments everywhere to abide by both the letter and spirit of
this ruling," he said.
Clancy said the decision also validates the campaign that the National
Union has waged for many years to have labour rights recognized as human
rights and to force Canadian governments to live up to the international
treaties Canada has signed over the years.
"This ruling should force all governments to reassess the cavalier manner
in which they have violated international conventions and standards on labour
rights and at long last to abide by them," he added.
The case was launched by a group of B.C. labour organizations, including
the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE).
For further information:
For further information: Mike Luff, (613) 228-9800