In a series of recent landmark decisions, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that basic trade union rights, including the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike, are protected by the freedom of association provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Court has struck down federal and provincial laws that deny some workers the right to join a union, which unilaterally change collective agreements without consultation and due process and which limit the right to strike in the event of an impasse in bargaining.
On Monday, Canadians from coast to coast will enjoy Labour Day, a last dash of sun (we hope) before the days quickly shorten and the leaves begin to transform.
Labour Day, of course, is much more than a statutory holiday; welcome time off at the turn of the season. It’s a day set aside to acknowledge the triumphs of worker’s rights and commemorate what has been achieved through the collective efforts of many generations of Canadians.
Right-wing commentators like to claim that unions undermine good economic performance. But respected organizations such as the OECD, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have shown this isn’t so. They have recognized that unions promote more equitable societies, and that countries with strong unions have less extremes of rich and poor, stronger public services and social safety nets, without adversely affecting good economic performance.
So why are Conservatives in Ottawa and the provinces disturbingly adopting the anti-union rhetoric of the American right?