Restoring Workers’ Rights
Stop Federal Interference in Free Collective Bargaining
Since winning a majority government, Mr. Harper has repeatedly interfered in the free collective bargaining process, essentially removing the right to strike and fixing the rules in favour of employers. Workers at Canada Post and Air Canada learned all too well that employers have little incentive to bargain in good faith when they know the government will intervene on their behalf. Labour relations experts have called Harper’s interference “unprecedented,” highly unusual,” “a wholesale departure,” and “creating problems, not solving problems” (CBC, October 13, 2011).
A Paul Dewar government will restore free collective bargaining and stop federal interference.
Establish a fair, neutral mechanism to resolve deadlocked labour disputes
Even though free collective bargaining produces a negotiated settlement 97% of the time, there needs to be a fair, neutral and timely way to resolve those labour disputes that become deadlocked. This is particularly important with the growing trend, seen at US Steel in Hamilton, ON, Rio Tinto in Alma, QC, and Caterpillar in London, ON, where employers lock out workers to force deep wage, benefit and pension cuts.
A government led by Paul Dewar will legislate, at the federal level, Manitoba’s innovative “60 day rule,” to enable either party involved in an impasse to ask the Canada Industrial Relations Board to impose binding arbitration and end the strike or lockout. Since this rule was implemented in 2000, it has brought several protracted disputes to a fair and neutral resolution while creating a strong incentive for employers and workers to negotiate in good faith. Since its implementation, the number of days lost to strikes and lockouts in Manitoba has fallen by more than 2/3 compared to the previous decade.
Reduce the length and divisiveness of strikes/lockouts by banning the use of replacement workers
The use of replacement workers by employers during a strike or lockout has been deemed a “serious violation of freedom of association” by the United Nations’ International Labour Organization. When employers can use replacement workers, negotiations are undermined, work stoppages are prolonged, conflict is heightened and the risk of picket line violence rises.
For decades, BC and Quebec have banned the use of replacement workers by law, recognizing that their use only poisons the collective bargaining process. The federal Parliament passed a partial ban on replacement workers in 1999, but exceptions permitted have been interpreted so broadly that the provision is completely ineffective. Since that provision was passed the use of replacement workers has actually increased by 6%, including high profile conflicts at Ekati Mine, NWT, at Telus in Alberta and BC, and at Vidéotron and Sécur in Quebec.
A government led by Paul Dewar will ban the use of replacement workers in federally regulated workplaces.
Take on the disgraceful workplace injury rate in federally regulated workplaces
While workplace injury rates have been declining by an average of 25% in provincially regulated workplaces, the injury rate in federal workplaces has actually increased by 5% over the past five years. This federal embarrassment is the direct result of deliberate decisions by the Harper government, which has cut the number of workplace safety inspectors by 15% and required any safety regulations to be balanced against the cost to business. As David Macdonald put it, Mr. Harper has used his so-called “war on red tape … to redefine the problem of injured workers as a cost of doing business.”
A government led by Paul Dewar will improve workplace health and safety by: hiring 50 additional workplace safety inspectors, enough to replace those cut by Mr. Harper and to make progress on injury reduction by adding more; and
putting workers’ lives before profit by exempting workplace health and safety from the 2007 Conservative budget directive requiring all new regulations to be balanced against the cost to business.
Reinstate the Federal Minimum Wage and implement a Living Wage Plan
In 1996, the Liberals abolished the federal minimum wage. This has left the federal government without a key tool in the fight against poverty. Paul Dewar believes the federal government has a moral responsibility to show leadership in improving wages for working families, and that if you work full time you deserve a living wage.
A government led by Paul Dewar will reinstate the federal minimum wage and set it at a level that raises living standards for working families; and implement a phased, multi-year plan to raise the minimum wage to a living wage (defined at 60% of the average Canadian wage).
Stop the attack on public sector workers
Conservative politicians and pundits are waging an aggressive war against public sector workers, attacking their hard-won pensions, benefits and collective bargaining rights. This is not just an attack on middle class working families; it is an attack on the people who care for our loved ones when they are sick, who police our streets and staff our jails, who keep our food and water supplies safe, who protect our environment, who deliver supports for the unemployed, and who deliver the other public services working families count on.
Instead of attacking public sector workers, a government led by Paul Dewar will stop the attacks on public sector workers, restore free collective bargaining, and honour contracts.
Reject Bill C-377, the Conservatives' discriminatory attack on unions
Hiding behind phony rhetoric about accountability, the Conservatives are pushing Bill C-377, a discriminatory attempt to saddle unions with costly and unnecessary red tape. Unions are democratic organizations whose leaders are selected by regular elections and whose members already have a right to detailed financial reports. This discriminatory bill unfairly singles out unions and ignores business and other lobby organizations that don’t have the democratic structures unions have.
A government led by Paul Dewar will oppose, or if necessary repeal, Bill C-377.
Extend language rights to all Quebec workers employed in federally-regulated industries
There are 130,000 private sector workers under federal jurisdiction in Quebec. Unlike 3.8 million of their fellow workers in Quebec, these workers are denied the rights enshrined in the Quebec Charter of the French Language. All workers in Quebec, regardless of jurisdiction, should be allowed to carry out their activities in French. All work-related documents should be available in French. Employers should be forbidden from firing, laying off, demoting or transferring a staff member who speaks only French or who has insufficient knowledge of a language other than French.
A government led by Paul Dewar will extend language rights to all Quebec workers in federally-regulated industries.
Enforce the “Westray Bill”
More than eight years ago, Parliament passed a law, known as the “Westray Bill,” enabling criminal charges for employers responsible for workplace deaths. Despite this breakthrough, few charges have been laid and none have been laid in federally regulated workplaces. A 2011 CLC symposium involving police officers, crown and private legal counsel, federal labour department officials and labour activists found that few resources have devoted to enforcing the Westray Bill, that law enforcement officials lack training about the Westray provisions, and that investigative protocols have not been updated to facilitate Westray prosecutions. It was clear that it will take a deliberate, coordinated effort supported by appropriate resources to successfully prosecute employers responsible for workplace deaths under the criminal code.
A Paul Dewar government will invest the resources necessary for criminal prosecutions of employers responsible for workplace deaths. These resources would support training for law enforcement officials, development of appropriate investigative protocols, and hiring dedicated prosecutors for workplace health and safety.