Tories Target Federal Workers’ Rights
October 31, 2013
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government launched a sneak attack on federal workers’ rights earlier this month with the introduction of a new budget bill.
Buried in the massive omnibus legislation are unrelated measures that limit the power of federal employees and their unions to engage in workplace action, including striking.
According to the Toronto Globe and Mail. the legislation would:
… enable the federal cabinet to place anyone from the governor of the Bank of Canada to opposition MPs under a stricter conflict-of-interest regime… [It] would grant Ottawa “the exclusive right” to determine whether any “service, facility, or activity of the government of Canada is essential because it is, or will be necessary for the safety or security of the public or a segment of the public.”
“This is virtually eviscerating collective bargaining for public servants,” labour lawyer Steve Barrett told the Globe and Mail.
While Harper and other Tories have described this as a nonpartisan modernization of federal labour relations, Treasury Board President Tony Clement made it clear that the government’s real agenda is weakening public-sector unions, telling Blacklock’s Reporter that “I think it’s completely ridiculous to have a system where the employer – in this case the Government of Canada – has to bargain with the bargaining unit to decide what positions are essential and which are not.”
The IBEW’s First District represents more than 6,000 federal workers. The legislation will apply not only to workers directly employed by Ottawa, but to industries under the federal labour code, including railroads, telecommunications, shipyards and pipelines.
Also inserted in the budget bill is wording that weakens on-the-job safety protections, including language that determines what kind of jobs an employee can refuse because of potentially hazardous conditions.
“They enclosed a bunch of different parts of legislation – much that had nothing to do with the budget – that should have been debated on and voted on separately into one big omnibus budget bill so they wouldn’t be discussed,” said First District Political Action/Media Strategist Matt Wayland.
The bill passed its first hurdle on Tuesday, when MPs voted 151-124 for second reading of amendments to the public employee labour code.
Photo used under a Creative Commons License from Flickr user tiganatoo.