Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia unions launch legal challenge against strike law

The four unions that represent health workers in Nova Scotia and the province's labour federation have banded together to launch a legal challenge against a Nova Scotia law that outlaws an all-out strike by health workers.

Alleges law contravenes charter rights by interfering with the right to strike

Hundreds of nurses with the Capital District Health Authority walked off the job earlier this year. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

The four unions that represent health workers in Nova Scotia and the province's labour federation have banded together to launch a legal challenge against a Nova Scotia law that outlaws an all-out strike by health workers.

Premier Stephen McNeil's Liberal government passed Bill 37 — known as the Essential Health and Community Services Act — in April as a way to end a strike by 2,400 registered nurses in the Capital District Health Authority.

The statement of claim filed Friday in the Nova Scotia Supreme Court alleges the law contravenes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and international law by interfering with the right to strike by health and community services employees.

Under the Essential Health and Community Service Act, unions and employers throughout the health-care sector are required to have an essential services agreement in place before a strike or lockout and would require an independent third party to decide if such a deal can't be reached.

Bill 37 allows for some health-care workers to walk off the job — but only after the parties involved agree on what constitutes essential services that must be maintained in the event of a strike.

The statement of claim said Bill 37 interferes with the right of unions to bargain collectively on behalf of their members and is discriminatory against women.

The unions want a Supreme Court justice to declare Bill 37 invalid and to force the province to pay all costs associated with the court action.

The claims have not been proven in court.

The province's Justice Department has yet to respond.

The Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Nova Scotia Nurses Union and Unifor are all part of the court action.

With files from The Canadian Press

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