Case No. 3143 against the Government of Canada

Federal Government
May 2015
Case status: 

Federal Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 2, Bill C-4 (December 2013)

Bill C-4 amended the federal Public Service Labour Relations Act (PSLRA), making it illegal for any bargaining unit to strike if 80 percent or more of the positions in that unit are declared necessary for providing an essential service. It also gives the federal government the "exclusive right" to determine which services are essential and the number of positions required to provide those services with a limited consultation process incorporated into the determination process.

Under the former essential services regime, unions and government negotiated the number of employees who were considered essential. If the two sides couldn't agree, the matter was turned over to the Public Service Labour Relations Board to decide which jobs would be considered essential in the event of a strike.

Further changes under the bill include limiting the use of arbitration for resolving disputes. Whereas before unions were free to choose between walking off the job or going through binding interest arbitration, the PSLRA now requires the union to proceed by way of conciliation or strike in all cases where the employer designates less than 80 percent of the employees in a unit as essential, unless the employer agrees otherwise.

As well, in the circumstances where the union is entitled to proceed to interest arbitration, the arbitration board must now take into account the government's "fiscal circumstances relative to its stated budgetary policies," as a primary consideration in making its decision.

Canada’s 18 federal public service unions filed an ILO complaint against Bill C-4 in May 2015.

In its March 2017 meeting, the ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association noted that correspondence from the new federal government confirmed that it intends to table legislation in Parliament, which would repeal all Bill C-4 Division 17 (Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 2) and to restore the public service labour relations regime that existed prior to the legislative changes introduced in 2013. The federal government also noted that in the intern, it will proceed with collective bargaining with its unions in a manner that follows the provisions contained in the Public Service Labour Relations Act (PSLRA) prior to it being amended in 2013 by the previous government. 

Based on this information, the Committee closed the case and concluded that it is "encourages the Government to continue working towards bringing the legislation into conformity with the principles of freedom of association and promotion of the full development and utilization of collective bargaining machinery in full consultation with the social partners concerned."