Court finds federal wage controls unconstitutional

2009 budget restrictions violated Charter rights

The Quebec Superior Court has found portions of the 2009 federal budget limiting some public sector wage increases to be unconstitutional.

The Association des Réalisateurs and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) challenged sections of the 2009 budget implementation bill that overrode wage increases already negotiated between the unions and the CBC.

CUPE Local 675 represents 625 administrative and support employees and the Association des Réalisateurs 350 radio and television directors of the French-language service of the CBC. Both unions had negotiated 2.5 per cent increases for 2008 and 2009, but the government reduced them to 1.5 per cent.

On July 22, the court ruled that the actions of the government in reversing the wage increases with no option of re-opening the collective agreements took away the ability of the two unions to negotiate their terms and conditions of employment.

The federal Treasury Board, in its submissions, argued that the Supreme Court’s ruling in Fraser had served to significantly restrict the reasoning of B.C. Medical Services in creating a more stringent test of what constitutes a restriction of the right of association in the labour relations realm.

The Superior Court disagreed. It found the same test in Fraser as in B.C. Health Services: freedom of association is made impossible where government actions mean that contract negotiations cannot be carried on meaningfully, effectively and in good faith.

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