The Quebec Superior Court recently decided that legislation which markedly altered the collective bargaining structure in Quebec’s health and social services sector was contrary to the guarantee of freedom of association as provided in section 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Quebec decision was based on the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada in Health Services and Support- Facilities Subsector Bargaining Association v. B.C., 2007 SCC 27 (“Health Services“) that certain provisions of British Columbia’s Bill 29 were contrary to section 2(d) of the Charter.
In Confédération des syndicats nationaux c. Québec (Procureur général), 2007 QCCS 5513, several unions representing employees in health and social services challenged 2003 legislation which, among other things, dramatically reduced the number of bargaining units in the province and grouped employees into four main bargaining units. The unions’ challenge was initially dismissed by the Quebec Labour Relations Board but the unions applied to the Quebec Superior Court for judicial review after the Supreme Court of Canada issued its decision in Health Services.
The Quebec Superior Court followed Health Services, upheld the unions’ challenge under the Charter’s freedom of association provision and dismissed the unions’ other arguments against the legislation. The Court acknowledged that the Quebec Government had presented evidence demonstrating that its objective in passing the legislation (to address rising health care costs) was urgent and compelling. The Court consequently suspended the effect of its judgment for 18 months to provide the Government time to pass legislation which would achieve its objectives without infringing the union members’ right to freedom of association.
(Click here for link to Decision)