Legislation preventing TTC workers from striking is unconstitutional, says court
The legislation forbidding Ontario transit workers from engaging in strike action is unconstitutional, a provincial court ruled.
The Toronto Transit Commission Labour Disputes Resolution Act, 2011 – which stripped Toronto Transit Commission workers of the right to strike – violated Charter rights, Ontario Superior Court of Justice William Chalmers ruled on Monday, according to a CBC report.
"I am satisfied on the evidence before me that the complete prohibition of the right to strike has resulted in a substantial interference with the meaningful process of collective bargaining," Chalmers said in the ruling.
The legislation, known as the TTC Act, was passed by the previous Ontario Liberal government.
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The Ontario government also failed to prove that the TTC is an essential service as defined in case law, the judge ruled. A TTC strike would not harm or endanger the safety or health of some or all of the city's population.
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Also, a TTC strike may not have significant economic consequences, the judge ruled, according to the report.
"In reaching this conclusion, I acknowledge that there are millions of TTC users each day. I also acknowledge that many of the people who rely on the TTC are from equity-seeking groups," Chalmers said in the decision, according to the CBC report.
"However, the evidence before me on this application with respect to the economic consequences of a TTC strike is not persuasive. The government did not offer an economic expert."
The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) hailed the Ontario Superior Court.
“This is an historic win for transit workers in Canada. The Court has delivered a major victory for free collective bargaining in Ontario and for our Local,” said Marvin Alfred, President/Business Agent, on behalf of the Executive Board of ATU Local 113. “Our members’ Charter rights have been violated for more than a decade. Fortunately, we are now able to return to the bargaining table without unfair government interference.”
Chalmers also recognized that the TTC went on strike in 1991, 1999, 2006 and 2008, but the strikes were not lengthy.
ATU Local 113 noted that it went to court seeking to strike down the 2011 TTC Labour Disputes Resolution Act, arguing that it had impaired the union’s ability to bargain freely with the TTC.
“The Court found that Local 113 had only been on strike for 12 days in the 20 years prior to imposing the legislation,” said Alfred. “We’ve known for more than 10 years that our rights were being violated, and that the TTC had been given an unfair advantage in bargaining. I am looking forward to a return to free collective bargaining at the TTC.”
The recent spate of industrial actions across Canada has led to increased concerns for HR leaders and their employers – specifically in regards to how best to deal with unions and their representatives.