TORONTO – CUPE’s 55,000 education workers are lauding a significant Ontario Superior Court victory, after several unions challenged the constitutionality of Bill 115. The court challenge was filed in 2013 after Bill 115 stripped workers in the education sector of their rights to bargain collectively. The challenge was postponed in 2014 at the request of the province, and resumed in December, 2015.
“CUPE’s position has always been that Bill 115 violated our basic Charter rights,” said Terri Preston, chair of the union’s education sector coordinating committee. “We saw it as a threat to all Canadian workers, and we couldn’t let it pass unchallenged. The court validated our position that this Bill was a gross overreach that trampled basic freedom-of-association rights.”
“After this lawsuit was initially filed, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) ruled in the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour case that workers have a constitutional right to strike,” said Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario. “CUPE was a lead union on that SCC case, and victory there gave us great confidence in our case here. We are thrilled the Superior Court has agreed that the government’s approach to collective bargaining was ‘fundamentally flawed’.”
Significantly, in his ruling Justice Lederer wrote that the impact of this flawed piece of legislation was “not just on the economic circumstances of education workers but on their associational rights and the dignity, autonomy and equality that comes with the exercise of that fundamental freedom.”
“This couldn’t send a clearer message to governments that they ought not interfere in free collective bargaining,” said Preston. “It’s a terrific ruling for education workers in Ontario and in building on the existing case law, for all Canadian workers.”