CUPE Nova Scotia legally challenges essential services legislation

Bill 30 strips inherent bargaining rights: Union

Home support workers in Nova Scotia have launched a legal challenge against the provincial government.

Led by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), home support workers announced on March 18 their intention to file a lawsuit against the province’s highly-contentious Essential Services Act.

Otherwise known as Bill 30, the legislation deemed home support workers an essential service, effectively forcing more than 400 staffers at Northwood Home Care, headquartered in Dartmouth, N.S., back to work. Northwood employees and their employers had reached an impasse during collective bargaining, due largely in part to wage parity.

The legislation strips home support workers of their inherent right to bargain collectively and to strike, said president of CUPE Nova Scotia, Danny Cavanagh.

“This bill was created for the express purpose of pushing our home support workers into accepting a deal that was dictated to them by the provincial government. Contrary to what the premier and labour minister have been claiming, that is not free collective bargaining,” Cavanagh said.

Marianne Welsh, CUPE’s home support co-ordinator, said there have been plenty of high-profile Supreme Court rulings on essential services laws and the right to collective bargaining. Therefore, she is hopeful Northwood’s case has a strong legal foundation from which to jump off.

“We proved to the provincial government that free collective bargaining works by negotiating deals with two of our employers in this sector at the very same time they were ramming this law through the house,” said Welsh.

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