Canada: Supreme Court finds in favour of teachers and education workers

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court of Canada protected teachers’ and public service employees’ collective bargaining rights. The case, brought before the court by the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) against the government of the Canadian province of British Columbia, aimed to hold the government to account and honour commitments made while at the negotiating table.

The roots of this case go back to 2002, when the British Columbia government unilaterally canceled dozens of articles in collective agreements in the education and health sectors, replacing the negotiations with a number of unstructured and insufficient public hearings.

BCTF, affiliated to EI member organisation the Canadian Federation of Teachers (CTF), together with Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ), another EI affiliate in the country, as well as six other public sector unions, immediately took the government to court over breach of the existing collective bargaining agreements.

Despite the unions having obtained a Supreme Court ruling in 2007 which recognized that freedom of association protected the right to a genuine process of collective bargaining, the government did not yield and in 2011 passed a new law that further prohibited collective bargaining in these sectors.

After further court cases in 2012 and 2013, this year’s final ruling by the country’s Supreme Court finds in favour of the right to collective bargaining and thus strengthens the rights of public sector employees all over Canada.

Daniel Lafrenière, CSQ Secretary Treasurer and EI Executive Board member, said: “This ruling is important not only for the rights of teachers, but also for all public sector employees in Canada. It clearly confirms that students’ learning conditions are closely linked to the working conditions of teachers.”

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