Saturday, June 9, 2007

Collective bargaining constitutional right, sez Canada's Supremes

In a major win for labour, the Supreme Court of Canada reversed itself from a ruling twenty years ago and stated that Canadians do in fact have the constitutional right to join a union and to bargain collectively. A huge slap in the face for Stephen Harper, Gordon Campbell and all the other so-called "right to work" leaders in our country and a well deserved one at that.

This stems from a 2002 decision by Campbell to rip up a nurses contract, firing 8000 of them and giving the rest a 15% pay cut. Set aside the basic unfairness of that and the violation of the principle that a promise made should be a promise kept. What does it say about the state of health care in this country where one makes waiting lists and basic care in chronic care facilities even worse by cutting into the heart of the profession without which physicians would be totally helpless?

It says, in my opinion, that our cherished system of single-payer health care is in terrible danger and we have to stand up for it. If we are going to say that good health is a right -- and not a privilege as it is in the United States -- we need to make sure physicians, nurses, support staff and the physical plants gets mo' money and that the money is being well spent. It also says that we need to fulfill those commitments also. The provinces were bitching about how their "50 cent dollars" had been slashed over the years by the feds to 18 cents.

They meet halfway and get 25 cents -- and this is how Campbell repays the favour?

Let us not forget the Winter of Discontent of 1979, the series of public service disputes in Britain, including the infamous London Garbage Strike, that led to the fall of Callaghan -- a socialist. Between aboriginal protests and some contracts coming up for negotiation in the next few months this could very well be Canada's Summer of Discontent, and the organizers will have the full backing of the courts to do so.

Of course, Harper and Co could always use the notwithstanding clause. But if he did, you can be sure the Cons will get zero seats in the next election. As for Campbell and the other Premiers, they'd better make peace with the nurses and fast. Hospital closings are one of the last things Canadians need right now.

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