Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cash compensation will be sought, SFL says

CBC News 
Feb 7, 2012

Saskatchewan Federation of Labour president Larry Hubich says people whose rights were infringed by the essential services law deserve compensation. 

Unionized workers whose constitutional rights were infringed by the province's essential services law should be individually compensated, the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour says.

The labour organization that won a partial victory in court Monday in its fight against the province's labour law overhaul says it expects financial compensation for the unions involved, but also for tens of thousands of workers.

"We'll be seeking damages for every individual who lost the right to strike, had their freedom taken away, as well as the costs to the unions of having to deal with this," said Larry Kowalchuk, a lawyer representing the SFL in the case.

SFL president Larry Hubich said there could be tens of millions of dollars involved.

On Monday, a Queen's Bench judge ruled that the province's Public Service Essential Services Act is flawed and unconstitutional, because it doesn't give unions an adequate way to challenge which employees can't strike.

Under the law, certain public employees — such as health care workers and snowplow drivers — can be deemed essential and banned from striking.

The unions argued that the Saskatchewan law was extreme and undermined the right to strike and bargain collectively. The SFL took the province to court over the matter last year.

A similar challenge against amendments to the Trade Union Act, which critics say make it tougher to unionize, was dismissed by Justice Dennis Ball.

The judge said the government will have a year to fix the essential services law. He also said he'll meet with the two sides to discuss "remedy" — which the unions take to mean money.

"You violate someone's human rights, that individual is entitled to damages," Kowalchuk said.

Unions as organizations are also expected to seek financial compensation, Hubich said.

Some unions say they've spent a lot of time and money arguing against unfair essential services provisions.

"Remedy includes damages for everybody who has had to incur additional costs to go through a process that is deemed to be unconstitutional," Hubich said.

Justice Minister Don Morgan says the government might amend the legislation or it might appeal Ball's decision.

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