The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal has confirmed that the restrictions on the right to strike in the Public Service Essential Services Act do not violate the freedom of association found in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In relying upon the 1987 decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Court of Appeal confirmed that “the freedom of association does not comprehend the right to strike.”
In a period of government fiscal restraint in almost every Canadian jurisdiction and indeed globally, public sector unions are forced to face a very difficult dilemma. They either cooperate and find some alternative ways to efficiencies that lead to the necessary fiscal saving, or governments will follow tough negotiations with constitutionally sound implemented terms and conditions for collective agreements.
In Ontario, the next big test will be the challenge in the education sector of Bill 115, Putting Students First Act, 2012. If the unions in that case are hoping for a change in judicial attitude towards restrictions on the right to strike after a period of tough collective bargaining and consultation, the Saskatchewan case is another reminder that the Supremes have ruled on this before, and the unions would better serve their members by offering alternative solutions to the request from governments of all stripes for fiscal savings.