Ever since Stephen McNeil’s Liberal government proclaimed Bill 148 in 2017 — the Public Services Sustainability Act — eight unions have been steadfast in our demand that this anti-worker legislation be repealed.
Bill 148 legislated three things that directly interfered with Section 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and every Nova Scotian’s right to full, free, collective bargaining:
- It imposed a non-negotiated wage pattern on the entire public sector
- It ended the retirement allowance/public service award as of April 1, 2015
- It prohibited an arbitrator from awarding anything above the wage pattern.
When the unions challenged the legislation in court on behalf of our members, we knew that pursuing legal action would be a slow process. Six years later that has turned out to be true.
There was reason for optimism in 2021, when Premier Tim Houston took office, as the Progressive Conservatives had committed to repealing Bill 148 if elected. Very unfortunately, once in government they failed to deliver on their promise, leaving the unions no other choice but to continue our Charter challenge through the courts.
Last week, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court decided that the case can continue without any further delays. The Court also set dates for the hearing and various procedural steps that must take place.
The hearing is scheduled for June 2, 3, 4, and 5, 2025. It also includes a number of deadlines over the next 22 months for disclosures, affidavits, expert reports, rebuttal reports and briefs. This is without question a long process.
However, it is a fight worth fighting. Bill 148 removed our right to bargain wages and removed negotiated benefits from our Collective Agreements. Without that right, Nova Scotia workers have no say in the conditions under which they work. No free society can allow such a violation to continue. The Conservative government must repeal Bill 148 to clearly restore and protect the rights of Nova Scotians against future attacks on working people.
Canadian Union of Public Employees, Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 1867, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union, Nova Scotia Teachers Union, Service Employees’ International Union Local 2, Unifor, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 727