In the wake of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision that
established a constitutionally protected right to strike, the
Alberta Court of Queen's Bench has struck down legislation that
prevents certain classes of Alberta workers from exercising that
On April 1, 2015, Justice Thomas issued a judgment declaring
that sections 96(b) and (c) of the Labour Relations Code
and section 70 of the Public Service Employee Relations
Act (the "PSERA") are without force and
effect as they violate the Charter of Rights and
These sections provide that, amongst others, government
employees, employees of hospitals or health authorities, and
non-academic employees of universities, colleges, and technical
institutes are prohibited from striking.
Justice Thomas' declaration arose out of an action by the
Alberta Union of Provincial Employees. The issuing of Justice
Thomas' judgment declaring the impugned provisions
unconstitutional was not opposed by the provincial government.
According to the judgment, the statutory provisions at issue
were contrary to the Supreme Court's decision in
Saskatchewan Federation of Labour v Saskatchewan, 2015 SCC
4 because they "prohibit strikes by certain classes of workers
by reference only to the identity of their employer and without
regard to the extent their work is necessary to provide essential
At issue in Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, was
Saskatchewan's Public Service Essential Services Act,
which similar to the legislation at issue in Alberta, prohibited
essential services employees from engaging in strike action.
In Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, the Supreme Court
suspended its declaration of invalidity for one year, thereby
enabling the government to make the necessary changes to the
Similarly, Justice Thomas suspended his declaration that the
impugned provisions of the PSERA and the Labour
Relations Code are invalid for a period of one year. As such,
we can expect to see new legislation governing essential services
and the right to strike by next spring, first in Saskatchewan and
then here in Alberta. While we will have to wait for the details of
the new legislation, we will certainly see an expanded right to
strike and possibly a designation of essential services as those
needed to prevent a "clear and imminent threat to the life,
personal safety or health of the whole or part of the
As new developments arise on this issue, Workwise will
continue to report on any that will have an impact on employers,
unions and employees.
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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