In a landmark victory for Canadian union workers, its high court proved that collective bargaining rights are indeed protected by the constitution.
The victory judgment against the provincial government which was supporting the Bill 29 that allowed the government to privatize support work while negating union contracts, has been hailed by union and labor leaders from all fields. The bill was passed in 2002 to provide labor flexibility, by the then B.C Liberal government, in order to deal with escalating health costs.
AdvertisementCanada's senior most judges heard that it was against constitutional laws for the province to pass such laws in just three days and with no time to negotiate.
The court also found the following: "It was adopted with full knowledge that the unions were strongly opposed to many of the provisions, and without consideration of alternative ways to achieve the government objective."
Labor leaders are exulting over the ruling, which has recognized workers' right to bargain collectively, as part of their freedom to associate. Says B.C. Federation of Labor president Jim Sinclair: "The importance of this is far beyond the health care sector. "Every worker in Canada should be celebrating today."
At the same time, it is not immediately clear what the ruling will mean in hospitals and health facilities, or for the 900 union members who lost their jobs when the Fraser Health Authority used Bill 29 to contract out hospital cleaning and dietary services.
The Hospital Employees' Union (HEU) wants the Victoria government to intervene now to stop several hundred more pending layoffs of care home that were issued in the past three weeks.
According to HEU secretary-business manager, Judy Darcy, Bill 29 made this kind of "contract flipping" designed to frustrate unionization, possible. "It has created crisis and chaos and uncertainty in health care for five years now .The government should not allow any more damage to flow from Bill 29 ", she was quoted.
Jim Sinclair is also calling on Victoria to intervene on behalf of the care home aides. "The first step in making this right is telling those people they are no longer being fired," he said.
Health unions plan to meet with the government to talk about "undoing the damage, restoring our rights and future legislation," according to Darcy. As of now, Health minister George Abbott has not yet been available for comment.