Casual government workers in New Brunswick win right to unionize

Court rules labour relations act violates Charter rights of casual workers
||Last Updated: 07/10/2009

A New Brunswick court has given casual government workers in the province the right to unionize.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Paulette Garnett ruled the law governing labour relations for the public service violates casual workers' right to freedom of association under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The New Brunswick Public Service Labour Relation Act prevents casual workers from joining unions and thus they earn less and have no benefits or vacation entitlement, said Bob Hicks, regional director of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) for the Maritimes.

In her decision, Justice Garnett said the Charter imposes on the province an obligation to extend protective legislation to unprotected groups.

"For many years the province has subjected 'casuals' to practices which can only be described as unfair," said the ruling.

The judge gave the province one year to remedy the situation.

The decision could affect thousands of temporary or seasonal workers employed by the New Brunswick government.

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