Supreme Court refuses to hear Manitoba labour appeal of repealed wage-freeze legislation
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The Supreme Court of Canada won’t hear a constitutional appeal to Manitoba’s wage-freeze legislation from a coalition of labour groups.
The court released its decision Thursday. Although the Progressive Conservative government repealed Bill 28 (the Public Services Sustainability Act), the matter is unresolved after contradictory decisions by Manitoba’s two lower courts, the president of the Manitoba Labour Federation said Thursday.
“While this is not the outcome we were hoping for, we will continue to fight for the rights of workers to free and fair collective bargaining,” Kevin Rebeck said in a press release.
The Partnership to Defend Public Services argued that Bill 28 was unconstitutional because it violated their right to collective bargaining. The Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench agreed in 2020. That decision was overturned in 2021 by the Court of Appeal.
The labour coalition said the wage-freeze law unfairly impacted 120,000 public-sector workers, and “there are still thousands of dedicated Manitobans who are without a contract today because of the mess this government made,” its press release said.
While the high court wouldn’t hear the case, the coalition claimed a partial victory earlier when the PCs repealed the wage-freeze bill — a signature piece of legislation under former premier Brian Pallister.
The court’s decision not to hear the case signals that it’s time to move on, said Labour Minister Reg Helwer.
“This means that the constitutional decision of the Manitoba Court of Appeal, in favour of the government, stands. As we said after the Appeal Court’s unanimous and comprehensive decision, our focus is on looking forward,” Helwer said in a prepared statement.