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Can Toronto Declare the TTC an “essential service”?

You might have seen the flurry of articles recently on a motion put to Toronto city council that the TTC be declared an essential service.   The provincial government would have to actually pass the law making the TTC “essential” for the purposes of labour relations, and I’m not sure that the Liberals would want to take that on.  For one thing, banning strikes can actually increase costs to the public employer since bargaining disputes  will be settled by interest arbitration.  Secondly, legislating TTC employees as “essential” in order to prevent them from striking will almost certainly result in yet another rebuke from the International Labour Organization, which has time and time again ruled that Canada’s obsession with back-to-work legislation violates Canada’s international law obligations.   Canada’s abysmal record of compliance with ILO Convention 87 (on freedom of association) is already an embarrassment.   And, thirdly, the labour movement is waiting in the wings for a good test case to bring to the Supreme Court challenging back-to-work legislation as a violation the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Section 2(d)).  That issue is alive again after the  Court’s ruling last summer in Health Services, where the Court said that Section 2(d) should provide at least as much protection as ILO Convention 87.   ILO Convention 87 clearly does prevent back-to-work legislation for transit workers.  So we wait to see how all this plays out…

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