Dissatisfied with their half-victory Thursday, the unions of municipal employees promise already to continue the fight to the Court of appeal against the act 15 on retirement benefits even if some articles have been declared unconstitutional.
One of the judgments the most awaited in Québec for more than ten months, is finally fallen on Thursday afternoon, at the end of a long legal battle. It concerns almost all the cities of the province and the rest of the unions of municipal officials.
Not less than 94 days of hearings have been necessary. The trial, which was held in the capital, came to an end in August 2019. Claimed by the mayor Régis Labeaume of Quebec city and the mayors of other large cities, and it was adopted under the liberals in December 2014, the controversial act 15 provided for a sharing 50-50 of the deficits of the pension plans and the non-indexation of annuities.
In his voluminous decision of 227 pages, the judge Benoît Moulin gave reason to the State of québec and the cities and towns for the first part that has more “advantages” than disadvantages. According to him, the legislature is not going too far to “reach its goal of good health and sustainability of DB plans (defined benefit plans) in the municipal sector”.
On the other hand, he pulled to the side of the unions for the second part, considering that the cities could not act unilaterally in suspending the indexation of pensions of retirees who will lose a “vested right” without having “a voice”. The magistrate considers that this constitutes a “substantial interference” with freedom of association and collective bargaining.
The judge Mill will remain seized of the matter to adjudicate on the claims of retirees.
“We’re going to continue the battle”
“It is certain that we are going to appeal even if one is happy to have won this item-there for the retirees. We think that the same logic should apply to active participants, and we will continue the battle,” responded in the interview, the quebec director of CUPE, Marc Ranger, who has carried the torch of trade union Coalition for free negotiation for years.
The members have always criticised the government for flouting of collective agreements and change the rules of the game retroactively with the law 15. They criticize him again. “We believed, we, as all this law-there had to be unconstitutional. For retirees, this is a start, but there is far for us from the cup to the lips. Law 15, it is still an obstacle to our right of negotiation”, said Mr. Ranger.
Reaction of the UMQ
In a communiqué issued at the beginning of the evening, the president of the Union des municipalités du Québec (UMQ), Suzanne Roy, is pleased that the superior Court “confirms that the legislature was within its right to adopt the law 15”, a legislative tool “necessary because of demographic ageing, the global economic instability and the constant growth of the expenditures of the municipalities”.
It says it wants to study the judgment thoroughly “in coming weeks” to assess the impact for its members.