"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.