This week’s court ruling by Manitoba Queens Bench Justice McKelvey found that the Pallister Conservative Government’s Bill 28 – “The Public Services Sustainability Act” was unconstitutional and a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and a circumvention of workers’ rights to collective bargaining.
This controversial legislation was introduced in 2017 and never proclaimed into law. The government acted as if it was law, by mandating a two-year wage freeze for each new public sector collective agreement in Manitoba. This has left several Unions, including the Manitoba Nurses’ Union, working without a contract for several years.
The court decision called the Conservative government’s wage control legislation “A draconian measure that inhibited and dramatically reduced the collective bargaining and associational rights of unionized public sector workers”.
This substantial win for Manitoba public sector workers was also welcome news for Ontario Unions in their constitutional challenge against the Ford Conservative government’s eerily similar Bill 124: “The Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector For Future Generations Act”.
While the Conservative governments of Alberta’s Kenney, Ontario’s Ford, Manitoba’s Pallister, and others will continue with their ideologically driven austerity agendas, this court ruling is testament to the fact that this agenda is wrong, it’s unlawful, and it has to be challenged.
This COVID pandemic has shown that a policy of austerity can only damage our healthcare, long term care, and other public services. Those same governments who implemented this devastation are scrambling to deflect blame from themselves. The chronic underfunding of services by government cannot continue.
During this crisis, public and private sector Union members have demonstrated clearly that the work they do is vital to society. Workers deserve to be fairly compensated, their constitutional right to collective bargaining and rights of association MUST be recognized.
Workers deserve fair compensation for the work they do, its time government got back to the table and negotiate, It’s a worker’s right.
Derek Ferguson (firstname.lastname@example.org)