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Canada’s largest union is hailing today’s landmark ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada as the Court’s most important decision in support of free collective bargaining in Canada. (See also: Summary of Supreme Court decision on BC’s Bill 29)

Referring to the Supreme Court of Canada’s previous refusal to recognize collective bargaining as protected by Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Paul Moist, national president of CUPE, stated “In overruling its own decisions from 20 years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada has removed tremendous hurdles faced by the trade union movement in this country.”

“The Supreme Court of Canada has now opened a door that was closed twenty years ago,” says Moist. He notes that the possibility for today’s ruling was opened by the 2001 judgment in Dunmore.

“Today the Supreme Court has followed this opening and determined that the right of workers to bargain collectively is so important to society as a whole that it is protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

The Court held that collective agreement provisions dealing with contracting out, layoffs and bumping are central to the freedom of association. Substantial interference with collective bargaining over these essential rights violates the freedom of association.

Moist added, “CUPE is particularly pleased that the Court found that the Charter gives the same protection for collective bargaining as contained in international labour conventions that Canada has ratified.”

For Claude Généreux, CUPE’s national secretary-treasurer, “Collective bargaining is the fundamental reason that trade unions exist. The Court has recognized that collective bargaining is constitutionally protected. CUPE is ecstatic with this.”

“From now on, governments that interfere with freely negotiated collective agreements and the collective bargaining rights of employees must justify their actions against the protection provided by the Charter of Rights.”