The Supreme Court of Canada in Saskatchewan Federation of Labour v Saskatchewan confirmed once and for all that the right to strike is protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This landmark decision strikes down Saskatchewan’s essential services legislation, which prevented a wide range of public sector employees from striking. This decision does not conclude that all essential services legislation that imposes limits on strike action will be unconstitutional; however, it will have an impact on the future of labour relations across Canada.
To summarize, the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour challenged Saskatchewan’s Public Service Essential Services Act (PSESA) and the Trade Union Amendment Act, which came into force May 14, 2008, alleging both pieces of legislation violated section 2(d) of the Charter, which protects freedom of association and expression.
The purpose of the PSESA was to limit the ability of public sector workers to go on strike. The Act set out a process whereby some workers such as nurses and ambulance attendants can be declared essential and banned from going on strike.
For more, read the case commentary on Slaw here.