Bill C-59: The government's latest attack on collective bargaining and sick leave

July 20, 2015


In her June 4 appearance before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, CAPE President Emmanuelle Tremblay was critical of the false premises underlying Bill C-59. During her presentation, she made it clear to the Committee that C-59 violates the freedom of association provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

She added that “C-59 isn’t an isolated attack; it’s part of a concerted effort to change the rules governing collective bargaining.” Federal public service unions have been fending off repeated government attacks for some time. In December 2013, Bill C-4 eliminated the right to arbitration for most public service bargaining units. Now C-59 seeks to remove unionized public sector workers’ legitimate right to collective bargaining – a right that has been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada.

When Bill C-4 altered the collective bargaining process for our members by taking away the right to arbitration, it drove workers inexorably toward the conciliation/strike route as the sole means of resolving impasses at the bargaining table. In what amounts to an additional turn of the screw, however, Bill C-59 will deny public servants the opportunity to exercise that legitimate right with respect to the major issue that is government’s proposed sick leave and short-term disability plan. “In addition to denying them their fundamental rights, the government is proposing an approach that is unfair for employees and unjust for taxpayers,” declared Tremblay. “The government is
asserting that it can generate ‘savings’ from what amounts to an unfunded liability on its books; it is also failing to take into account the costs associated with this new compensation system.

“This government contends that it is simply trying to modernize their employees’ sick leave plan. If that’s their goal, we’re on board. And we can reach that goal without C-59 – without bypassing free and fair collective bargaining – without changing the rules of the game.”
The House of Commons and the Senate passed Bill C-59 in June. CAPE’s brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance is available for consultation on our website ( and on the Parliament of Canada website ( On June 26, CAPE, PIPSC and 10 other public service unions have filed a challenge against C-59 before the courts.