| SPECIAL EDITION – December 20, 2001 |
UFCW Canada wins agricultural workers
Agricultural workers in Canada – especially in Ontario – have had their right to bargain collectively enshrined by the Supreme Court of Canada, which today upheld a constitutional challenge by UFCW Canada on their behalf.
“The Court’s decision in Dunmore v. Ontario (Attorney General) means that agricultural workers can no longer be treated as an underclass, deprived of the basic right to representation enjoyed by other groups of workers,” says Michael J. Fraser, Director of UFCW Canada.
UFCW Canada was certified in 1994 as the bargaining agent for a mushroom factory in Leamington ON, under the NDP’s Agricultural Labour Relations Act 1994 (ALRA), which gave agricultural workers in Ontario the right to organize for the first time. With negotiations with the employer underway, the Harris Tories came into power and stripped workers of their rights with the Labour Relations and Employment Statue Law Amendment Act, 1995 (LRESLAA). UFCW Canada mounted a constitutional appeal on behalf of agricultural workers which was carried all the way to the Supreme Court and today’s ruling.
“Today’s decision is a great step forward for Canadian workers, and a signal that Canada continues to lead the way in championing the rights of workers in general,” Michael Fraser says. “The Supreme Court’s message throughout the decision is clear and simple: agricultural workers have rights, too.”
While the Court clearly ruled the Ontario legislation unconsitutional, it allowed for an 18-month period for new legislation to be drafted that protects workers’ rights. Agricultural workers in Alberta could also be affected by this decision, as the only other province in which they do not currently have the right to union representation.
“It is clear that the onus is now on the Ontario government to change this faulty and unfair legislation,” Fraser says. “UFCW Canada will continue to exercise its responsibility as a large and strong union with members in this sector, to fight on behalf of agricultural workers and win them the protections they deserve.”
More: UFCW Canada statement on Canada NewsWire