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A four-year legal battle culminated this week in an important victory for Saskatchewan working people and their rights to bargain collectively, said CUPE Saskatchewan President Tom Graham.

Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Dennis Ball ruled February 6 that the Brad Wall government’s essential services legislation, introduced just six weeks after the Saskatchewan Party swept to office in 2007, is unconstitutional.

Justice Ball, the former head of the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board, said the government’s essential services legislation infringes upon the freedom of association of employees protected under section 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Good faith negotiation is not possible when one side has the capacity to simply impose an agreement on the other,” he wrote in his decision.

Justice Ball agreed with the labour movement’s contention that the government’s Public Service Essential Services Act transferred power to employers and reduced the ability of “employees to engage in meaningful strike action.”

The Justice also confirmed that the right to bargain collectively is protected by the Charter and determined that such protection includes the right to strike. “The government’s Public Service Essential Services Act infringes on those rights…” he said in his 131-page decision.

It’s an important decision for CUPE and the labour movement because it restores our right to fair collective bargaining,” said Graham.

The parties involved in the case agreed at the conclusion of the hearings that if the legislation was found to be unconstitutional, the court’s declaration would be “suspended” for 12 months to give the government time to act.

In the same decision, Justice Ball ruled the Saskatchewan Party government’s changes to the Trade Union Act did not violate the Charter.