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Appeal court hears arguments on labour ruling
Published Tuesday, November 27, 2012 8:18AM CST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 28, 2012 7:51AM CST
Saskatchewan’s highest court will continue to hear arguments today on a ruling that says the province’s essential services legislation is unconstitutional.
The province's Court of Appeal heard submissions Tuesday from lawyers for the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and the provincial government.
In February, Justice Dennis Ball found that the Public Service Essential Services Act infringes on employees’ right to freedom of association. He also ruled that the right to strike is protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The government is appealing the ruling, arguing that while the right to strike is protected by provincial statutes, it isn’t specifically recognized by the Charter.
"The law in Canada has been that there is no constitutional recognition for the right to strike in the collective bargaining process, so that was a pretty significant change," government lawyer Graeme Mitchell said outside court.
However, union lawyers argue that workers have a fundamental right to strike. They say the essential services law violates the Charter by forcing some employees to stay on the job.
"What's at stake is fundamentally the right to strike, what are the conditions upon which employers can come in and tell workers they do not have the right to go on strike," said Craig Bavis, lawyer for the SFL.
"All across Canada, from British Columbia with teachers to the public sector and private sector in Ontario and the public sector in Saskatchewan, the litigation of the right to strike and whether or not it's a fundamental freedom that Canadians have is being determined by the courts."
Meanwhile, the unions are asking the appeal judges to overturn a lower court ruling that says the government’s Trade Union Amendment Act doesn’t violate the Charter.
The act raised the required support threshold to apply for union certification to 45 per cent from 25 per cent.
A lawyer for the unions says the law infringes on workers’ right to organize by making it significantly more difficult for unions to receive certification.
The hearing is scheduled to wrap up Thursday.