Yesterday, the Harper government tabled its latest omnibus budget bill, this one measuring 325 pages and including amendments to the Supreme Court Act. Kathryn May explains how the bill would also change public service labour rules.
The most worrisome reform revolves around the right to arbitration as a way to settle contract disputes. The government intends to only allow arbitration if both parties — Treasury Board and the unions — agree. If they don’t agree, conciliation and a possible strike are the only other alternatives for unions to settle labour disputes.
At the same time, however, the government has reserved the “exclusive” right to decide which jobs will be designated “essential,” which means employees in those jobs can’t strike. Employees in bargaining groups where the government has designated 80 per cent to be essential will be allowed to seek arbitration to settle impasses.