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The highest court in the land will rule on whether a British Columbia government contract-breaking law violates workers rights. The legislation, Bill 29, tore up B.C. health care workers collective agreements, paving the way for unprecedented privatization of health care services and triggering the mass firing of more than 8,500 health care workers mostly women and many, people of colour.

The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear the challenge, being brought by the Hospital Employees Union (HEU), CUPEs B.C. health services division, along with several other unions. The unions are taking their fight to the top court, arguing their challenge raises critical questions. The challenge argues there is a constitutional right to collective bargaining, and that the legislations impact on women and pay equity violates equality provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Decades of progress towards pay equity were erased by Bill 29, says HEU secretary-business manager Judy Darcy. Thousands of decent, family-supporting jobs were eliminated. And the subsequent privatization of health services has generated an entire workforce surviving on poverty wages.

The case will likely be heard in late 2005 or early 2006.