Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Saskatchewan Court of Appeal Says Province's Essential Services Law Is Valid

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Saskatchewan Court of Appeal Says Province's Essential Services Law Is Valid

Article excerpt

Court of Appeal says essential services valid

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REGINA - Saskatchewan's highest court has ruled that a provincial law that says some workers are essential and cannot strike is constitutional, but labour groups say the decision is not a loss.

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal said Friday that the right to walk off the job is not protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"In 1987, the Supreme Court (of Canada) ruled that freedom of association does not comprehend the right to strike. Its decisions on this point have never been overturned," Justice Robert Richards wrote on behalf of the five-judge appeal panel.

"While the court's freedom of association jurisprudence has evolved in recent years, it has not shifted far enough, or clearly enough, to warrant a ruling by this court that the right to strike is protected by ... the charter."

The ruling means Saskatchewan's Essential Services Act is valid.

The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, which led the challenge against the law, said it had hoped for a different decision.

However, federation president Larry Hubich said the decision isn't a loss because Richards also writes that there's nothing to suggest the Supreme Court would not bring strike activity within the limits of the charter "if again confronted directly with the issue."

"I don't describe this decision in the terms of win and loss," said Hubich.

"It may be, as the Court of Appeal has said, that a higher court would actually determine that the right to strike is constitutionally protected. What they've said in here is that they're not prepared to make that determination and they kind of, in essence, kick it upstairs for someone else to decide," he added.

The federation has 60 days to decide if it will ask the Supreme Court to hear the case.

The Saskatchewan Party introduced the legislation in December 2007 shortly after winning its first provincial election. The law states employers and unions must agree on which workers are so needed they can't walk off the job.

Unions were outraged because the law also states that if the two sides can't agree, employers can dictate who is essential. …

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