Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Gordon Campbell Liberals should be ashamed after ripping up union contracts ruled illegal by Supreme Court

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column

Tuesday June 12, 2007

Let's compensate our health workers


But even by his own steamroller standards, Premier Campbell violated a basic covenant on the weekend by forcibly rewriting legal, negotiated contracts that were still in force. If he is not prepared to respect so basic a legal agreement, what other contracts is he prepared to rip up? This is not reform. It is legislative vandalism.

- Globe and Mail editorial on Bill 29, Jan. 30, 2002

Canada's highest court has ruled that Premier Gordon Campbell's "legislative vandalism" is illegal.

On Friday the Supreme Court of Canada looked at B.C. Liberal legislation that ripped up freely negotiated, legal collective agreements and rejected it.

It is a stunning and welcome repudiation of reprehensible actions that took away the jobs of about 8,000 health-care workers through privatization.

Those same workers, who were so terribly mistreated, should now be compensated by the Campbell government.

Most of those workers were Hospital Employees' Union members and just before the 2001 election Campbell blatantly lied to them to get their votes.

"First of all, I don't believe in ripping up agreements ... I have never said I would tear up agreements," Campbell told the HEU Guardian newspaper.

Then he did exactly that in January 2002.

Perhaps the most despicable thing was that the workers affected were mostly women, many of them immigrants who fled repressive countries where undemocratic governments had no respect for the rule of law.

These employees had bought homes and cars, signed mortgages and loans on the basis that they had secure work.

Then they discovered a deceitful government could take away their jobs and even worse, rescind their legal contracts.

Campbell and his MLAs, with one exception, should hang their heads in shame. The exception is Blair Lekstrom, the Peace River South Liberal MLA who joined NDP MLAs Joy MacPhail and Jenny Kwan in voting against Bill 29.

Governments are always wrong when they become bullies and break their word - and the law.

A previous New Democrat government learned that the hard way too. When it cancelled a freely negotiated agreement with Carrier Lumber, the B.C. Supreme Court intervened, awarding $150 million to the company.

Ironically, the B.C. Liberals have actually strengthened the role of unions across Canada by forcing the Supreme Court to entrench labour rights in law.

"The right to bargain collectively with an employer enhances the human dignity, liberty and autonomy of workers by giving them the opportunity to influence the establishment of workplace rules and thereby gain some control over a major aspect of their lives, namely their work," Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Justice Louis LeBel wrote in the 6-1 majority decision.

Now the B.C. Liberal government must pay the price for illegal legislation they wrongly forced on health-care workers.


Anonymous said...

Gordon likes to "win" just like a spoiled little kid. He will spend as much of our money her can to tell us he is right and the courts are wrong. The Bill is a mess as it stands so any fair mined person would rewrit it. and of course the folks who got thumped should definitly get compensation. He took not only their jobs but their pride in their work performance. I think they still remember the big mouth Kevin Kruger calling them all" toilet cleaners". A disgraseful performance by the present government.They all vote by rote for anyhting Gordo dsays as he isn't leader, he thinks he is master dl

Anonymous said...

Excellent column and challenge to the Liberals. Given Campbell's remarks reported today, he just doesn't get it. Rather then a reasoned reply, he has simply restated the arguments made in losing the SCC case.

One thing with this reaction is that it proves the "warm and fuzzy" image spun since the election is a facade and the true nature of the Liberals has not changed. The fallout with this matter when combined with the Basi/Virk affair may well be Campbell's "perfect storm".

Anonymous said...

Yes, the reaction to the SCC judgment is revealing that the new "kindler, gentler' BC Liberal image is a bit of a scam, isn't it.

Anonymous said...

"Bill 29 was intended to take the savings that result from removing excess from the health-care system and reinvest it in more care for everyone in B.C." - Philip Hochstein, President, Independent Contractors and Business Association of B.C. - The Vancouver Province, Tuesday, June 12, 2007.

Sorry Philip. Bill 29 was intended to take the savings that resulted from removing worker's collective bargaining rights to pay for massive tax cuts for the rich. Nice try on the history rewrite though.

Budd Campbell said...

The Supreme Court reversed its own earlier rulings on collective bargaining because they were shocked at the extreme, violent interpretation that the BC Liberal Govt had place on those rulings, turning them into an economic licence to kill.

To reign in tyrannical governments made up of extreme Liberal ideologues (Colin Hansen, George Abbott) and advised and supported by even more extreme zealots (Hochstein, Paladin), the court had to produce new precedents at variance with their own previous rulings.

That's a lesson that the Erin Airton types need to learn when they trot out their mini-Bork speeches about judicial activism.