Partnership to Defend Public Services Wins Court Case

Publish date: Thursday, June 11, 2020

Court upholds right to collective bargaining, strikes down Public Services Sustainability Act

Manitoba’s labour movement has won an important victory for workers and their Charter-protected right to collective bargaining, Manitoba Federation of Labour president Kevin Rebeck announced today on behalf of the Partnership to Defend Public Services (PDPS) – a coalition of public sector unions including MNU that launched a legal challenge to The Public Services Sustainability Act (Bill 28).

“Today’s ruling clearly shows that the Pallister government’s heavy-handed law violates the right to collective bargaining for 120,000 Manitobans who work in the public sector,” said Rebeck.

Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice McKelvey ruled that the Pallister government’s Public Services Sustainability Act and its actions to impede collective bargaining in the province are a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and workers’ right to collective bargaining. Today’s ruling confirms that the Public Services Sustainability Act is unconstitutional. 

“The ruling validates what nurses and public sector workers have been saying all along: this bill is unconstitutional and circumvents our collective bargaining rights,” added MNU President Darlene Jackson. “It’s time for the Pallister government to stop playing games and meet us at the bargaining table.”

Rebeck added that he was glad to see the ruling so strongly struck down the government’s law and rejected its legal arguments, cautioning that the Pallister government needs to stop interfering with collective bargaining in the public sector with further unconstitutional legislation. He noted that workers throughout the public sector have been working under expired contracts for years, and are now facing the additional challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I want to thank Manitoba’s labour movement and our great legal team for this substantial victory for working people,” said Rebeck. “Manitoba’s unions will always be there to fight for workers’ rights on the job, and this legal victory represents another step in the pursuit of workplace justice.“

As was agreed at the beginning of the trial, the court will now set further dates to determine what financial and other remedies will be payable to the union plaintiffs by the government, including compensation for legal costs.

At this time, it is unclear if the Pallister government will appeal the decision. In the meantime, MNU will closely review the 230 page decision and determine the implications for its collective bargaining process. MNU will provide further updates on this legal issue as information is made available.

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