May 7 2018
The Liberals finally delivered York University what it wanted all along: interest arbitration. It took two months from the commencement of a bitter strike. Here is a Toronto Star story describing the move by the Liberals, end the NDP’s refusal to vote for the legislation.
Here is the Bill [Bill 70 An Act to resolve labour disputes between York University and Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 3903]. I haven’t had a chance to read it closely yet to see if it is unique in any way.
Back to work legislation seemed like a forgone conclusion after Industrial Inquiry Commissioner Kaplan recommended it in his final report last week. That recommendation gives the Liberals ammunition to defend a possible Charter challenge by CUPE 3093.
The Ontario NDP has a long tradition of stalling back to work legislation in solidarity with unions who do not want the
legislation. Usually, the Liberals and Conservatives have enough members to enact the legislation, so the NDP can only delay the inevitable a few days. However in this case, the House is shutting down for the election on Tuesday May 8, so the legislation is likely to stall.
It is worth noting that in the case of long strikes or lockouts, it is often the union that wants the government to intervene and impose interest arbitration. In fact, an unusual aspect of the York situation is that the union was resisting interest arbitration even as the stoppage dragged on, while the employer was proposing it. When it is the union that wants binding interest arbitration, you are likely to find the NDP taking a different position. For example, do you remember the 2 year long strike at Crown Holdings?
In that case, NDP leader Andrea Horwath criticized Labour Minister Kevin Flynn and the Liberals for not enacting binding interest arbitration. The Liberals responded that they prefer to let the parties bargain their own contract without government intervention unless that is impossible. Here’s an exchange in the legislation from 2015 in which Horwath asks Minister Flynn when the Liberals will act to protect workers by enacting back to work legislation.
Its all situational.
Unions have been very active pursuing Charter challenges against legislation that impedes collective bargaining and the right to strike. It is important to pay close attention to the facts of those cases, and it would be wrong to believe that unions are always opposed to government intervention in a strike to force interest arbitration.
Issues for Discussion
Do you think that the Liberals have acted fairly in stepping in now to enact back to work legislation, or is this an unjust intervention in free collective bargaining?
Should CUPE file a Charter challenge, following the lead of OPSEU, which has launched a lawsuit against the Liberals for back to work legislation in the colleges strike?
Imagine that OPSUE and CUPE file Charter challenges against the Liberals intervention in their strikes and the cases make it to the Supreme Court of Canada. Do you think it would be in the interest of the labour movement and working people for the Court to rule that all back to work legislation violates the Charter (and is therefore unlawful) except in the case of “true” essential services, such as doctors, police, firefighters?