Dalhousie Law Journal


Collective bargaining, public sector, rights, civil servants


A fundamental premise of Canadian labour relations legislation is that all workers have a right to freedom of association, freedom to require their employers to bargain collectively with their chosen bargaining agent, and freedom to strike to persuade their employers to agree to terms and conditions of employment. Yet in all jurisdictions,' governments have denied or limited these rights with respect to their own employees. This discrimination reflects a deep-seated conviction among legislators and among many members of the public that government employees pose unique problems requiring special treatment in matters of labour relations. In this paper I propose to examine both the legislative framework within which this "special" treatment is meted out in Nova Scotia, and the practical accomodations the parties to the public employment relationship have made in order to live within that framework. After discussing some of the more serious problems that have arisen under this regime, I will examine critically the theoretical basis for denying to public employees the collective bargaining rights granted to their counterparts in the private sector to see whether it furnishes adequate justification for withstanding the pressures for change.