Newfoundland pay equity ruling bolsters B.C. unions' Bill 29 case

News release

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A pay equity ruling handed down today by the Supreme Court of Canada makes it clear that targeting the rights of women hospital workers is a breach of equality rights contained in Section 15(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

That's good news for B.C. health care unions who are pursuing their own constitutional challenge to contract-shredding legislation brought in by the Gordon Campbell Liberal government in 2002.

The court ruled that the Newfoundland and Labrador government's violation of a pay equity agreement with hospital workers in 1991 was an infringement of their Section 15 equality rights but could be justified by the serious economic crisis it faced at that time.

No such crisis faced the B.C. government when it imposed Bill 29 in January, 2002 - a move that shredded existing collective agreements, cleared the way for contracting out and resulted in job losses for more than 8,000 health care workers, most of them women.

"The Campbell government had no right to violate our members' contracts or their constitutionally protected equality rights," says Hospital Employees' Union acting secretary-business manager Zorica Bosancic.

"Today's ruling from the other side of the country will help us in our fight for justice for B.C. health care workers at the Supreme Court of Canada," says B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union president George Heyman.

HEU and BCGEU had intervener status in the Newfoundland and Labrador court case. The two unions, along with the BC Nurses' Union, have filed for leave to appeal a lower court dismissal of their Bill 29 charter challenge to the Supreme Court of Canada.