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Four BC unions filed another legal challenge to make the Campbell Liberal government pay for ripping up legally-binding collective agreements.

In a writ filed in BC Supreme Court on May 28, the unions are seeking damages and costs on behalf of thousands of community social service workers whose contracts were torn-up by the government in January under Bill 29.

The 10,000 employees represented by CUPE, HEU, BCGEU and HSA work in group homes, transitions houses, children and youth centres, and a range of other community social service agencies across the province.

The legal action contends that Campbells contract-breaking legislation violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and is unconstitutional. The unions want the court to strike down the legislation and restore their members freely negotiated contracts.

Under Bill 29, workers with years of experience will lose their employment security, wage parity adjustments, joint health benefit plan and other key provisions in their contracts, explained CUPE BC president Barry ONeill. Our members fought long and hard including an 11-week strike in 1999 to achieve these gains, and theyll fight long and hard to keep them, he said at a joint union news conference in Vancouver.

HEU president Fred Muzin issued a warning to privateers waiting to cash in on this legislation and take over the delivery of community social services. Any company that seeks to profit or benefit from this draconian legislation does so at their peril, he said. When Bill 29 is struck down, there will be huge costs that these corporations and government will have to pay to reimburse community social services workers who have lost jobs or lost income, he said.

George Heyman, president of the BCGEU, called the Campbell governments legislation an abuse of power. Were confident the courts will decide that this uncaring government cannot tear up contracts with impunity, he said.