CUPE New Brunswick and other public sector unions are one step closer to a legal challenge to secure freedom of association for the thousands of casual workers in the province of New Brunswick.
A working committee comprised of CUPE New Brunswick, the New Brunswick Teachers Federation, the New Brunswick Nurses Union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the New Brunswick Federation of Labour and the New Brunswick Public Employees Association has been formed to review proposals to commence legal proceedings to liberate the several thousand casuals who work in the public service on a regular basis but are denied basic rights and benefits.
The public sector unions met for a second time this week with the law firm Paliare & Roland from Toronto. This is the law firm that won the Supreme Court of Canada decision securing freedom of association for agricultural workers in Ontario under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Also in attendance were representatives from Pink, Breen and Larkin, which has undertaken numerous court challenges, including cases before the Supreme Court.
The law firm of Paliare & Roland has mapped out the course of action necessary to launch a Court challenge. The ultimate goal of the legal proceedings is to change the definition of employee under the Public Service Labour Relations Act. If successful, casual employees would gain fundamental bargaining rights.
In the spring of 2001, the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) ruled that the government of New Brunswick was violating international labour provisions governing the rights of casual workers.
“Its been two years since the ILO decision. Its very clear that the New Brunswick government chose to ignore the ruling,” said CUPE NB president David Rouse.
For many years, the casuals have performed work in hospitals, schools, highways, jails and other government departments but are denied regular wages and benefits, including pensions, and their fundamental freedom of association.
Under the New Brunswick Public Service Labour Relations Act, casuals and temporary workers in the public service are not defined as employees. Although many carry almost a full workload or have been working in the public service for years, they do not have the right to unionize or to be covered by a collective agreement.
“These people come in to work every day. They work side-by-side with permanent staff, performing the same work and they get a fraction of the pay rate and they have no benefits. Its a very discriminatory and unfair situation,” said Rouse. “This situation is leading a huge portion of the workforce to be paid less and offered no job security or protection and the majority of them are women.”
The working committee is scheduled to meet again July 17th.
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For more information:
David Rouse, President CUPE NB