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Saskatchewan court says essential services law is unconstitutional

A Saskatchewan court says essential services legislation passed by the Brad Wall government in 2008 goes too far and is unconstitutional.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Dennis Ball says in a written decision that the essential services act infringes on the freedom of association of employees protected by the charter.

It’s exactly the ruling organized labour was hoping to hear.

“It’s the worst essential services legislation in Canada,” said Saskatchewan Federation of Labour President Larry Hubich, one of the lead plaintiffs in the case.  “We feel vindicated because we’ve said for a long time that the legislation was heavy handed.”

However, the ruling didn’t completely throw out the principle of essential services, and gives the government twelve months to bring the legislation in line with the charter.  Justice Minister Don Morgan says the government will embark on that process right away.

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“We would not want to have to go through rounds of negotiations without knowing what’s going to happen at the end of twelve months,” Morgan said Monday afternoon.

The Justice Minister added that despite this ruling, essential services will remain in place in Saskatchewan.

“It’s a commitment we made to citizens of the province and we intend to uphold that commitment.”

With one victory in their pocket, Hubich says labour will now seek financial damages for not just unions, but for the tens of thousands of union members that lost their right to strike.

“Every member of the union who was affected by this legislation has had their rights infringed upon,” said Hubich.

The court did strike down a challenge to the Trade Union Amendment Act.  Ball says it does not infringe on the Charter and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim for a declaration of invalidity.

Files from the Canadian Press