Charter ruling challenges protection of bargaining rights

Ontario farm workers denied union representation; employers encouraged to bargain in good faith
By Andrew Treash
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 06/29/2011

The constitutional right to collective bargaining that many thought was guaranteed through several previous Canadian court rulings, most notably Health Services and Support — Facilities Subsector Bargaining Assn. v. British Columbia, is now in doubt following a landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision.

The SCC ruled in April that an Ontario law restricting the right of farm workers to bargain collectively is constitutional. The Court said the province’s Agricultural Employees Protection Act (AEPA) provides them with a “meaningful” process to come together as a group to negotiate with employers, even if that process is not in the form of collective bargaining.

The decision is a harsh blow to the union movement which has long argued the AEPA was unconstitutional because farm workers do not have the same collective bargaining rights as other employees in the province.