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Tories Scrap Fair Wages Law


June 27, 2012

Canada's Parliament

On June 18, Canada’s House of Commons voted to scrap the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act after Stephen Harper’s Conservative lawmakers successfully inserted the change in their massive 425-page omnibus budget bill.


The fair wage act is similar to the Davis-Bacon law in the United States in that it requires contractors on federally-funded projects to pay the locally determined prevailing wage.

The move, a priority of open-shop lobby Merit Canada, would allow contractors to pay as little as the provincial minimum wage on new projects.

Says Matt Wayland, First District political action/media strategist:

Employers can now get jobs by driving down wages to the lowest possible common denominator. It’s a race to the bottom situation and its’ working families and their communities who will pay.

Wayland says he rejects the criticism by Merit Canada that the law unfairly favors union shops over nonunion ones:

Anyone could bid on federal jobs – union or nonunion. They were just required to pay a decent wage. Now we’re going to see construction workers’ wallets take a hit as employers try to outdo their competition in pay cuts.

Opposition MPs, including members of the New Democrats, Liberals and Bloc Québécois – along with the sole Green Party MP Elizabeth May – joined in trying to block passage of Bill C-38, which also raises the age of eligibility for Older Age Security and introduces more stringent rules regarding Employment Insurance, but failed to prevent its passage.

During floor debate New Democrat MP Pat Martin said:

The Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act took wages out of competition so that contractors on federal projects would win jobs based on their skill and their ability, not their ability to find cheaper and cheaper wages.

Despite nationwide economic growth, workers’ wages have remained stagnant reports Statistics Canada, with the government’s recent move expected to suppress wage growth even further.

The bill has moved on to the Senate for final approval, where it is expected to pass.

 Photo used under a Creative Commons License from Flickr user Suresh_|=k.