The federal government has moved one step closer to making good on its promise earlier this year to restore the pre-2013 public service labour relations regime. On November 28, 2016, the government tabled legislation to repeal parts of Conservative Bill C-4 (Economic Action Plan, No. 2, Division 17), dealing with essential services, collective bargaining, and processes for grievances and dispute resolution in the federal public sector. The new legislation, if enacted, will restore the federal public services labour relations regime that existed for decades prior to Bill C-4.
Bill C-4 has proven contentious from the outset. The Harper government enacted it without consultation as part of a massive budget bill. Labour groups have widely decried it as significantly diminishing the power of federal unions and blunting the right to strike. In 2014 the Public Service Alliance of Canada launched a widely reported legal challenge to Bill C-4, alleging that it violated union members’ rights to freedom of expression and association under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Further, in January 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down essential services legislation in Saskatchewan that included provisions very similar to essential services provisions in Bill C-4.
Although the existing provisions of Bill C-4 will remain in force until the new legislation is passed, the Government of Canada stated in its News Release that it is committed to working with public sector unions to ensure that current practices are in line with the intent to repeal the Bill C-4 provisions at issue.