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In “Historic Moment,” Canadian Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Collective Bargaining Protections

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In a 6-to-1 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that joining a union and engaging in collective bargaining are constitutional rights for Canadian citizens.  The question arose from a case in which the Mounted Police Associations of Ontario — “Mounties” as they’re affectionately referred to — challenged the federal Public Service Labour Relations Act which denied them the right to unionize.  The decision reversed a 1999 Supreme Court decision that had upheld the law and kept the Mounties’ hopes of fair representation at bay.

In their decision the judges wrote:

“We conclude that the s. 2(d) guarantee of freedom of association protects a meaningful process of collective bargaining that provides employees with a degree of choice and independence sufficient to enable them to determine and pursue their collective interests.”

James Clancy, National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) National President, said in a statement:

“This is definitely a historic moment for working people and the labour movement in Canada. Not only has the Supreme Court affirmed the fundamental labour rights of working people, it has reinforced the positive roles that unions and collective bargaining play in Canadian society.  The Court explicitly states that collective bargaining is a fundamental aspect of Canadian society in that it enhances the human dignity, liberty, and autonomy of workers.

The decision also recognizes the importance of unions in providing the only democratic counterweight to the growing power of employers in Canada, especially of governments and large corporations.”

The government now has 12 months to institute the changes the ruling prescribes.  The victory is a massive one, as the court has reaffirmed the importance of collective bargaining to working people the nation over:

”It gives them the opportunity to influence the establishment of workplace rules and thereby gain some control over a major aspect of their lives, namely their work. Put simply, its purpose is to preserve collective employee autonomy against the superior power of management and to maintain equilibrium between the parties.”

Tangible change for the Mounties will come in the form of “sufficient independence,” which will allow meaningful collective bargaining.  Currently, the Mounties have “voluntary associations” funded by members’ dues and they work with management to establish pay and benefits.  However, the top leaders have full control over the final result.  In their decision, the court corrected this wrong, arguing:

“The current RCMP labour relations regime denies RCMP members that choice and imposes on them a scheme that does not permit them to identify and advance their workplace concerns free from management’s influence.”


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