April 20th, 2015

New Ruling Says Alberta Strike Legislation Violates The Charter

Strike legislation has definitely been in the spotlight this year and now Alberta is the latest province to see a major court decision handed down.

On April 2 it was announced that the Alberta Court of Queens Bench had struck down provincial labour laws that took away the right to strike for public workers.

DSC_2158 (2)Justice Dennis Thomas ruled that Section 96 of the Labour Relations Code and Section 70 of the Public Service Employee Relations Act violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Section 96 of the Labour Relations Code deals with the ‘application and prohibition against strike and lockout’ and Section 70 of the Public Service Employee Relations Act states that ‘no person or trade union shall cause or attempt to cause a strike by the persons to whom this Act applies.’

Both sections have serious implications for workers rights in Alberta, and this decision was regarded as a move in the right direction by both unions and workers around the province.

Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, was one of those who were pleased with the ruling.

In a statement after the ruling McGowan said that Albertans ‘have the right to work together, to look after each other and to stand up for themselves when needed.’

“Attacking those rights doesn’t lead to labour peace – it leads to long-term problems. I am very pleased that Justice Thomas in his wisdom has reaffirmed those rights,” said McGowan.

DSC_2168Thomas gave the government until April 1, 2016 to amend the legislation and cited the recent ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada regarding the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour vs. Saskatchewan.

On Jan. 30 it was ruled that the Saskatchewan law that prevented public sector employees from striking was unconstitutional and the government was also given one year to amend the law.

In an interview with Global News Lori Johb of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour said that although workers aren’t generally ‘keen to strike’ this ruling ‘leveled the playing field.’

“Without that right, we really had no power, we had no ability to achieve fair, collective bargaining for all the members,” she said.

If the recent rulings are any indication, unions and workers across the country will be paying close attention to strike legislation in all provinces.

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