Supreme Court vindicates right to meaningful collective bargaining

January 16, 2015

Today’s Supreme Court of Canada decision on the Mounted Police Association of Ontario recognizes the right of all workers in Canada to choose independent associations to engage in meaningful collective bargaining. This right is constitutionally protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“The Court has confirmed what workers have known instinctively all along,” said CLC President Hassan Yussuff. “The right to choose an independent association to engage in collective bargaining forms the essence of freedom of association.”

“The Court has also affirmed in a powerful and eloquent way the fundamental importance of trade unions and collective bargaining in redressing inequality between employees and their employer in the workplace,” he added.

The Court’s decision states: “Individual employees typically lack the power to bargain and pursue workplace goals with their more powerful employers.  Only by banding together in collective bargaining associations, thus strengthening their bargaining power with their employer, can they meaningfully pursue their workplace goals.”

For more than a decade, RCMP members have stood before the Supreme Court insisting on their right to come together in an association of their own choosing.

Today, the Supreme Court of Canada has reversed an earlier decision on the matter.

“On behalf of 3.3 million workers in Canada, the Canadian Labour Congress salutes the men and women of the RCMP who fought relentlessly for the right to independent self-organization and democratic self-representation,” said Yussuff.

“Governments and private sector employers should take note: neither the courts of this country, nor workers, will accept ‘employee-relations’ bodies set up by management to thwart meaningful collective bargaining with an independent employee association,” he added.

Yussuff said the CLC is urging Parliament to respect the decision of the Court, and ensure meaningful collective bargaining for RCMP members through a democratically chosen independent association.

In its companion decision, the Court has left for another day the question of whether unilateral and arbitrary wage controls violate freedom of association.
Canadians have watched governments increasingly using economic crisis and fiscal expediency to discard workers’ rights and dispense with meaningful and good faith negotiations with unions.

“We are hopeful that the Court’s strong endorsement of meaningful collective bargaining today will limit the ability of governments to interfere in collective bargaining through wage controls or other restrictive measures.”