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Appeal court upholds TTC workers’ right to strike, as potential job action looms

May 24, 2024
The Canadian Press

Ontario’s top court has upheld the right of Toronto Transit Commission workers to strike, a decision that comes just days before they plan to walk off the job.

The Court of Appeal for Ontario dismissed an appeal Thursday by the provincial government of a lower court ruling that had declared a law eliminating the workers’ right to strike unconstitutional.

In 2011, the Ontario government, under the Liberals, enacted a law banning unionized TTC workers from striking, which government lawyers in this appeal said came after “unusually frequent strike action and immediate ad-hoc back-to-work legislation.”

A Superior Court judge found last year that the law interfered with workers’ collective bargaining rights, and the Appeal Court agreed Thursday in a split decision.


The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 – which represents about 12,000 operators and other front-line staff at the TTC – announced hours after the decision went in its favour that it had set a strike date of June 7 amid current contract negotiations.

The lower court judge did make some errors in his analysis, the Appeal Court wrote, but none of them “fatally undermined” his conclusion that the law breached TTC workers’ collective bargaining rights and that breach could not be justified under the section of the charter that allows reasonable limits on rights and freedoms.

“The main thrust of the application judge’s reasons is that Ontario’s evidence did not persuade him that a full pre-emptive ban on TTC strikes was reasonably needed to protect public health and safety, the environment, and the economy,” the Appeal Court majority wrote.

“He concluded that the public harms the legislature feared would be caused by a full or partial TTC shutdown were speculative and unproven, whereas the impact of the strike ban on TTC employees’ (collective bargaining) rights was significant.”

The judge’s factual findings contained no overriding errors on any essential points, the court wrote. While the lower court judge perhaps arrived at his conclusion that Ontario couldn’t justify the breach in an incorrect manner, the conclusion itself is correct, the Appeal Court wrote.

The union said the Appeal Court decision is a historic win for working people.

“Since our right to strike was restored last year, we have seen a change in bargaining for the better,” union local president Marvin Alfred wrote in a statement.

“Bargaining a collective agreement is never easy and it involves a great deal of hard work. We are committed to working to come to a fair agreement and we will do what it takes to ensure our members get the fair agreement they deserve.”

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