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CUPE loses challenge against New Brunswick gov’t

OTTAWA, Ont. -- Provincial highway workers have failed to get the country's top court to hear a grievance over how...

OTTAWA, Ont. — Provincial highway workers have failed to get the country’s top court to hear a grievance over how a portion of the four-lane Moncton-Fredericton highway was contracted out.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled Thursday, it had dismissed an application for an appeal hearing from CUPE Local 1190, which represents about 2,000 workers with the Department of Transportation.

“It’s very disappointing,” says Thomas Steep, CUPE 1190 president. “I think this unfortunately provides a road map for how employers can contract out work.”

Six CUPE highway workers filed grievances claiming a key job-security clause with the province was violated when New Brunswick Highway Corp. was established and in turn hired the Maritime Road Development Corp. to build the planned toll highway.

The affected highway workers argued they had their construction season cut short in the fall of 1999 when they were left out of building the ramps and approaches in the River Glade area.

An adjudicator agreed and ordered the province to compensate the employees for lost earnings – Steep estimates it would have topped $100,000. Instead, the province appealed the ruling to the courts and won successive legal battles before a Court of Queen’s Bench judge and the Court of Appeal of New Brunswick.

Saint John lawyer, Jim Stanley helped prepare CUPE’s brief. He says he knew the legal challenge faced difficult odds. But he thought there were “some very important” areas of law that had not been clarified by the lower courts. The province’s lawyer, Clyde Spinney, declined to comment on the ruling Thursday. But Supreme Court documents indicate the province considered the employees’ contract provisions on job security irrelevant since the New Brunswick government was not the employer for the highway.

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