The McNeil Government is failing Nova Scotians by not asking the courts to test all of Bill 148 against the constitution, says CUPE Nova Scotia President Nan McFadgen.
On August 22, the McNeil Government referred parts of Bill 148, the Public Services Sustainability Act, to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal to determine the constitutionality of the legislation. However, the government only asked the court to review sections seven through 19. They excluded asking for a review of section 20 and 21 that include freezing the long-service award and strips it from future employees.
“How can the Premier expect anyone to have confidence is this piece of legislation if he is unwilling ask the courts for a constitutional review of all of it?” asks McFadgen. “He is clearly afraid of testing legislation that causes harm to tens of thousands of workers and their families.”
“The Premier should not cherry-pick which laws are constitutional and which are not. That’s not his job,” continues McFadgen. “It’s manipulative and he is trampling on our members’ Freedom of Association protected by the Charter.”
Canadian unions, including the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), have won court challenges similar to the current situation brought on by the McNeil Government. In 2016, CUPE members successfully fought back Bill 115 in Ontario. The following year, the education workers received $56.7 million financial compensation from the provincial government.
Union members in British Columbia, including Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU/CUPE) health care works, challenged legislation and won a settlement from the government in 2008. The Supreme Court of Canada awarded $85-million for health-care workers related to Bill 29.
At the end of a fourteen-year long battle, the BC Teachers’ Federation won a case decided by the Supreme Court of Canada in which the province was forced to reinstate clauses back into the collective agreement, hire back hundreds of teachers, and spend hundreds of millions of dollars on education to right the wrong.
“The McNeil Government’s attack on wages and retirement income will increase stress, workload and frustration among workers who provide services like health care, education and seniors’ care,” says McFadgen.
“What CUPE members, and all Nova Scotians, want from their government is security and well-being for their families, good jobs so that young people will stay in the province, quality care in hospitals and schools where children can thrive.”
Premier McNeil is too focused on his own agenda to solve the problems that matter to Nova Scotians.
“The Premier is picking fights with unions and workers, when he should be focusing on making life better for all working people and their families,” says McFadgen. “He’s cutting, privatizing and neglecting the services we count on, when he should be investing in and strengthening services.”
“We call on the Liberals to send the entire bill for review before the court and to respect the rights of all Nova Scotian workers under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”