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Supreme Court of Canada to hear
Arguments on “Right to Strike”

Friday, May 16, 2014 / 9:00 a.m.
Supreme Court of Canada

Should unions be granted broader rights to strike even when they provide essential services to the public? That’s one of the questions at the heart of a hearing on Friday, May 16, that will decide if a Saskatchewan law designed to ensure the ongoing availability of crucial services like policing and firefighting must be rewritten to meet union demands.

Darryl A. Cruz, Partner, McCarthy Tetrault, on behalf of the Canadian Constitution Foundation
Brandon Kain, Partner, McCarthy Tetrault, on behalf of the Canadian Constitution Foundation
Ronald Podolny, Associate, McCarthy Tetrault, on behalf of the Canadian Constitution Foundation
Sunil Kapur, Partner, McCarthy Tetrault, on behalf of the Canadian Constitution Foundation

In 2008, the Saskatchewan legislature passed the Public Service Essential Services Act (PSESA).

Under PSESA, employers and unions are supposed to negotiate agreements specifying which services are essential, and which employees will continue to provide those services during a strike. If the two sides can’t reach a timely deal, the employer can then unilaterally designate how many employees will have to work, and which ones.

Numerous unions headed up by the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour promptly initiated court challenges, arguing that the legislation violated their members’ constitutional rights under The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Among other things, the civil servants alleged that their freedom of association — normally guaranteed by Charter section 2(d) — was breached by their being denied the right to withdraw their services collectively. 

Of course, the CCF fully supports the right of any individual to stop working if he (or she) so chooses. If he quits his job, his employer can hire someone else. But that’s not what this case is about. It's about entrenching in the Charter a "right" to collective work stoppages with the expectation that employers will still hold strikers’ jobs open for them no matter how long they disrupt business and lives.   

“This case is bigger than one Saskatchewan labour law; this is about stopping unions from reading rights into the Charter that don't exist,” said Canadian Constitution Foundation Executive Director Marni Soupcoff. The Canadian Constitution Foundation was granted intervener status in the case. “We are here at the Supreme Court to protect Canadians' individual right to freedom of association from being perverted into a collective right that forces individuals to bow to union demands."
The Canadian Constitution Foundation (“Freedom’s Defence Team”) is a registered charity, independent and non-partisan, whose mission is to defend the constitutional freedoms of Canadians through education, communication and litigation.
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For further information, contact:
Marni Soupcoff
Executive Director
Canadian Constitution Foundation
(416) 549-1616

Web links:
Op-Ed about the Case
Canadian Constitution Foundation

Twitter: @CDNConstFound
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