Canada’s government announced changes to the country’s
federal labor standards Nov. 1, and advocates say they will improve working
conditions for the thousands of Canadians who work in federally regulated
|First District International Vice President Tom Reid spoke with Canada’s Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Patty Hajdu during the recent Canada’s Building Trade Unions Lobby Day in Ottawa.
“Better working conditions are good for business and benefit both workers and employers,” said Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Patty Hajdu, announcing the proposals at Toronto’s George Brown College. “When economic growth is inclusive, and fewer Canadians are left behind, we are all better off.”
Of particular interest to IBEW members is a proposed change to Canada’s Wage Earner Protection Program, which would increase the amount of financial assistance workers can claim when they are owed money by employers who file for bankruptcy. If approved, the change would be retroactive to February 2018.
“The government plays a crucial role in protecting workers and leveling the employment playing field,” said IBEW First District Vice President Tom Reid. “If implemented, the Trudeau administration’s proposals should help advance our members’ pursuit of high-quality, long-term jobs.”
The majority of IBEW members in Canada are covered by provincial or territorial labor law, but workers in certain industries — including railroad employees, dockyard workers, telecom, and public-sector employees — work under the federal labor standards.
Hajdu said that a recent government survey helped the administration tailor specific proposals to the realities that these workers face. The proposals are part of a larger federal government spending bill that aims to implement the omnibus budget measure approved by Canada’s Parliament in June.
The Trudeau administration says it has committed more than $10 million per year to support the plan’s implementation and enforcement.
The minister also announced some other worker-friendly proposals, such as updates to the Canada Labour Code that would allow employees to become eligible for more paid days off starting from their first day on the job.
Reid also applauded some of the proposals designed to address work-life balance. In addition to five recommended days of personal leave (with three days paid), the Trudeau administration is advocating 10 days of leave for victims of domestic violence (with five days paid).
“Missing a day of work — and losing out on a day’s pay — could raise a red flag for someone in an abusive domestic relationship,” Reid said. “Paid leave for victims of family violence will help those suffering to open a new bank account, find a new place to live, or get the help they need, all without losing pay and risking further domestic abuse.
Reid noted that many of the proposals are similar to Ontario’s Bill 148, passed by that province’s Liberal Party in late 2017. The party lost its majority to the anti-worker Progressive Conservatives, led by Doug Ford, last June.
“After only a few months on the job, the Ford administration is cruelly hacking away at some of our hard-won benefits victories under Ontario’s previous government,” Reid said. Ford’s anti-worker Bill 47, for example, calls for reducing the number of paid leave days and gutting the province’s rules regarding organizing, strikes, and apprenticeship training.
“We hope that Trudeau’s federal-level proposals will have a positive influence on the benefits and working conditions of all of Canada’s workers in the provincial and private sectors,” said Reid, who encouraged IBEW members to ask their members of Parliament to support the changes to the federal labor code.