Charter protects bargaining, Supreme Court says

Canadian Press

OTTAWA The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the collective-bargaining process is protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In a decision that will have major impact on relations between governments and their unions, the court threw out sections of a B.C. law and gave the province 12 months to fix it.

The court upheld a bid by a group of B.C. health unions to overturn a 2002 provincial law that erased portions of their contracts.

The justices ruled 6-1 that portions of the Health and Social Services Delivery Improvement Act interfered with the collective-bargaining process, contrary to the Charter.

The law allowed for contracting-out of non-clinical services previously performed by union members and eased lay-off notice provisions.

The law also restricted seniority rights, cut benefits for laid-off workers, and prevented unions from trying to renogotiate some provisions in subsequent contracts.

Lower courts in British Columbia ruled against the unions, saying the Supreme Court had never specifically said that collective bargaining is protected by the Charter.