For over 30 years, trade unions have relied on Steven Barrett to represent their interests, and the interests of their members, in all types of legal proceedings. Grievance arbitration, interest arbitration, labour relations board applications, collective bargaining – Steven does it all and makes it look easy.
From protecting the scope or work of a bargaining unit, to challenging discipline or discharge, to making sure retiring employees get their full pension entitlements, there are few collective agreement disputes Steven has not argued. Similarly, before the Ontario Labour Relations Board, he has represented unions in all kinds of proceedings from illegal strike applications, to related employer disputes, to complex unfair labour practice complaints.
When the terms of a collective agreement must be determined, trade unions and professional associations call on Steven to conduct their collective bargaining negotiations, put forward their position at interest arbitration, or act as their nominee on an interest arbitration board. Steven also provides strategic advice and advocacy for trade unions, professional associations and central labour bodies concerning legislative and policy initiatives, including in their dealings with government, universities, hospitals and municipalities. At one of his appearances before a standing committee, a member of parliament referred to Steven as “the Wayne Gretzky of labour law”.
Steven’s advocacy skills can also be seen in his class action practice. He has represented bank employees and others seeking a right to statutory overtime pay, retirees whose post-retirement benefits were improperly reduced, and hockey players seeking a right to the basic entitlements of employment standards legislation.
Steven is perhaps most widely known for his work in connection with the freedom of association guarantee in s. 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He has regularly represented intervenors in Supreme Court of Canada appeals dealing with the interpretation of s. 2(d), including in cases where the Court extended the scope of s. 2(d) to protect collective bargaining and the right to strike. Steven has made the Court’s jurisprudence accessible to a wider legal audience by explaining and analyzing its decisions at countless legal seminars and conferences, in law school classrooms across Ontario, and in articles published in legal journals and magazines.
Steven has also brought s. 2(d) applications before the lower courts. Notably, he helped convince the Superior Court of Justice that the Ontario government violated s. 2(d) when it passed legislation that imposed collective agreements on teachers’ unions. Most recently, after a three year battle, lawyers employed by Legal Aid Ontario won voluntary recognition after Steven filed a s. 2(d) application with the Superior Court.
Steven has been consistently named by his peers as a leading labour law practitioner in the Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory and is named as a notable practitioner in Chambers Canada.
Despite working tirelessly for his clients, Steven finds the time to serve as the Firm’s managing partner and chief problem-solver. Travelling somewhere? There’s no need for you to track down Anthony Bourdain; Steven can tell you where to find the most delicious food in almost any city in the world.
Notable CasesMore Notable Cases
- Wilson v. Atomic Energy of Canada Limited
- Saskatchewan Federation of Labour v. Saskatchewan
- Mounted Police Association of Ontario v. Attorney General of Canada