N.S. court overturns 2017 law that imposed labour contract on school teachers

·2 min read

HALIFAX — A Nova Scotia judge has found that a provincial law that imposed a labour contract on teachers to be unconstitutional, five years after it was passed by the former Liberal government.

Justice John Keith of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court says in his ruling that the four-year contract imposed in the 2017 law was significantly worse than a tentative agreement members of the teachers union had rejected.

He concluded in a written decision released today that "at best" Bill 75 may have been a misguided attempt at fiscal responsibility by the government of former premier Stephen McNeil, but in the end it failed to respect the process of good-faith collective bargaining "and was terribly wrong."

The judge found that the law violated the Charter guarantee of freedom of association, which the Supreme Court of Canada has said protects the right to collective bargaining on fundamental workplace issues.

The bill required the teachers to end their work-to-rule campaign and imposed a wage increase totalling three per cent over four years.

Keith ruled that the law removed gains from the last of three tentative agreements that teachers had voted down, including provisions for two days off for professional development and earlier payment of wage increases.

He also said the legislation "greatly reduced" representation of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union on a council that was created to recommend classroom improvements, compared to the tentative agreement the union had negotiated.

The province defended the changes from the rejected tentative agreement, saying the contract the government imposed "largely replicated" the negotiated deal.

However, Keith said it was "exceedingly obvious" that the law had unilaterally changed the negotiated gains by the union, and it "failed to respect the fundamental precept of collective bargaining," by not adopting the provisions in the third tentative agreement.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 14, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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