This morning, the Supreme Court of Canada handed down its decision on the applications for leave to appeal the Court of Appeal judgment in the case of Bill 15, the Act to foster the financial health and sustainability of Municipal Defined Benefit Pension Plans.

The Court essentially refused to hear the Attorney General of Quebec and the unions regarding the Court of Appeal’s decision that centred on rights duly negotiated in collective agreements pertaining to the municipal employees’ pension plans.

“Recall that the Court of Appeal recognized that the rights of active participants were being substantially obstructed but that the government was justified in acting in the way it did, which the unions challenged. The Supreme Court therefore refused to hear us on this issue. This comes as very bad news, since CUPE remains convinced that this legislation was totally unjustified and should never have taken effect,” explained Roxanne L’Abbée, union representative and coordinator of CUPE’s municipal sector.

The news was not all bad

“In another vein, we’re pleased with the Supreme Court’s ruling to dismiss the appeal by the Attorney General of Quebec, which upholds the decisions by the Superior Court and the Court of Appeal with respect to retirees. It is now clear that suspending the automatic indexation of pensions is unconstitutional,” indicated Marie-Hélène Bélanger, Director of CUPE Quebec.

CUPE will pull out all the stops to ensure that pensioners regain their right to automatic indexation of their pensions, which had been suspended, including the damage they had incurred.

A decade before the courts

The Supreme Court decision brings an end to a decade of legal challenges, mobilization, and union fights to gain recognition of the right to free collective bargaining.

The case dates to the passage of the legislation in December 2014 under the previous Liberal government, which called for municipal pension plan deficits to be shared 50-50. The legislation also called for non-indexation of pensions.

A broad coalition of municipal employees from all corners of Quebec was created in March 2013 to demand the right to free bargaining.