Larry Hubich's Blog: Right to Strike puts conservatives on notice

“Saskatchewan’s Labour Movement: the folks who brought you the constitutional right to strike!” said Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) president, Larry Hubich, as the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) sided with working families on January 30, 2015.
The SCC ruled, in no uncertain terms, that the SFL was right – the Saskatchewan Party government’s Public Services Essential Services Act (Bill 5) was heavy-handed, unworkable, and violated a Charter-protected right to strike.
“The decision by the Supreme Court to grant every worker in Canada a constitutional right to strike is a profound victory for our movement,” said Hubich, “the Court also delivered a strong message to conservative governments everywhere: your rigid ideology does not trump workers’ rights,” he added.
The Public Services Essential Services Act (Bill 5) was introduced by the newly-elected Saskatchewan Party government in 2007. As soon as it was introduced, workers, their unions, lawyers, and academics all said the Bill was overreaching, unnecessary, and probably illegal. The Saskatchewan Party, though, continued to only listen to their corporate friends instead of Saskatchewan families. As a result, a long Charter Challenge was launched by the SFL and its affiliates against Bill 5 to protect working families.
Despite the long and expensive court process, workers and their unions were gracious in their victory – extending an invitation to the Saskatchewan Party government to work together.
“We know that a work stoppage is always the last resort, and unions always prefer a negotiated agreement that is good for both sides,” said Hubich, “our victory does not change any of that, and we want to work with the provincial government to develop labour laws that are fair, balanced, and respect the rights of workers,” he added.
However, just a few days after the SCC ruling, Brad Wall floated the option of using the notwithstanding clause so that he and his government could continue violating Charter rights.
“This is a time for reconciliation and leadership, not a time for the premier to stomp his feet and threaten to deny Saskatchewan families their Charter rights,” said Hubich, “workers and their unions continue to offer our cooperation to create good public policy, and we hope the premier will come to the table in good faith,” he added.
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Larry Hubich's Blog: Bill 5 & 6 Charter Challenge Heads to the Supreme Court of Canada

A panel of three Supreme Court Justices has decided that the Supreme Court of Canada will hear the SFL et al case against the Government of Saskatchewan’s Bills 5 and 6 – so-called “essential services” legislation and amendments to Saskatchewan’s Trade Union Act. On May 16th in Ottawa, the Federation, along with the plaintiff group and intervenors, will present the case for the highest court in the land.

Though no organization ever wants to be in the position of taking its own government to court, Bills 5 and 6 represent significant infringements upon the fundamental rights of Saskatchewan working people. On behalf of the people of the province, and on behalf of the generations of people that struggled for the rights we enjoy today, it is our responsibility to challenge laws that appear to be unconstitutional, particularly when they concern people’s basic rights at work.

In 2010, the United Nation’s International Labour Organization (ILO) found that Bills 5 and 6 violate Canada’s international law commitments.

In April 2013, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal released a much-anticipated decision recognizing that Canadian law has evolved to a point where a right to strike may be protected by the Constitution. At numerous points, the Court of Appeal notes that, though it could not overturn previous Supreme Court decisions respecting a right to strike, striking could very well be a fundamental right protected by the freedom of association.

Before the Supreme Court of Canada, the SFL et al will be making the case that Saskatchewan people, and all Canadians, enjoy a right to strike that is constitutionally protected. We are also asking for a declaration that the 2008 changes to the Saskatchewan Trade Union Act substantially interfere with workers’ right to form unions of their own choosing, for the purpose of bargaining collectively with their employers.

In only a matter of weeks, working people in the province and across the nation will finally have an answer to questions raised in the Fall of 2007.

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