October 27, 2022

Supreme Court will not hear Labour’s Appeal of wage-freeze legislation (PSSA)

This morning the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) announced that it will not hear arguments on the constitutionality of the Public Services Sustainability Act (PSSA).  

What was the Public Services Sustainability Act?
The PSSA was introduced by the Pallister government in 2017 to implement wage freezes of 0%, 0%, 0.75%, and 1%.  In response, the Manitoba Federation of Labour (MFL) created the Partnership to Defend Public Services (PDPS), a coalition of unions, including UMFA, impacted by the legislation.  In June 2020, the Court of Queen’s Bench (as it then was) ruled that this legislation was “draconian” and unconstitutional. The Manitoba Court of Appeal overturned that decision in October 2021, ruling that the PSSA did not violate any constitutional rights.  With the Supreme Court dismissing the appeal application, the Appeal Court’s ruling now stands.

What does this mean for our $19.4M remedy?
In addition to the primary focus of the PDPS – that the PSSA is unconstitutional – a separate element of the lawsuit was specific to UMFA members.  Both the Court of Queen’s Bench and the Court of Appeal agreed that your Charter right to freedom of association was violated by having a wage-freeze secretly imposed during bargaining.  

The Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss the PDPS’s appeal application therefore does not affect the remedy for UMFA members.  In February 2022 the Court of Queen’s Bench ordered the Government of Manitoba to pay $19.4M to UMFA members in damages.  The government appealed this decision.

On Wednesday January 11, 2023 beginning at 09h30, Manitoba’s Court of Appeal will hear arguments on that appeal. Anyone who wishes to attend the remedy appeal is free to do so and we will communicate more information in January.

What do we do now?

Wage-freeze legislation was only one part of Brian Pallister and Heather Stefanson's attack on education and the public sector.  The Court of Appeal upheld the ruling that UMFA's professors, instructors, and librarians had their Charter right to free association violated when a wage-freeze was secretly imposed on them by the government. Despite stating that they value education, the actions of the Pallister and Stefanson governments have shown otherwise. It's time for workers and students to be prioritized and supported in Manitoba.

Manitoba’s provincial election is less than a year away and it is vital that post-secondary education be a priority issue.  During their tenure, the PC Government has frozen or cut the UM’s operating grant, frozen research funding, and increased student tuition. We, as UMFA members, need to be active participants in ensuring political candidates and elected officials understand the value of post-secondary education in Manitoba, and the kinds of changes and supports we need to see in the years ahead.