Unifor is raising grave concerns about the sweeping changes to the Canada Labour Code that are being presented in the omnibus Federal Budget Implementation Bill, C-4.
The proposed amendments, buried deep within the bill, would: weaken the right to refuse unsafe work; allow employers to discipline workers not carrying out dangerous work; unilaterally determine what constitutes essential services; weaken protections for laid off workers and make a number of other destructive changes. The proposed legislative changes would also take away the independence of arbitration boards, which are frequently charged with determining public sector contracts.
“Longstanding labour legislation is being gutted, shrouded in yet another giant omnibus budget bill that has little to do with the real budget,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “The proposed changes to the federal labour code would make the health and safety rules in federally-regulated sectors such as rail, airlines, the worst in the entire country and turn the clock back decades.”
Federally regulated sectors include marine shipping, ferry and port services, air transportation, railway and road transportation that involves crossing provincial or international borders, canals, pipelines, tunnels and bridges (crossing provincial borders), telecommunications, radio and television broadcasting, grain elevators, feed and seed mills, uranium mining and processing and a number of other areas dealing with First Nations activities and protecting the fisheries as a natural resource.
“There is a direct relationship between worker and public safety. That the government would make these dangerous changes just months after the Lac-Mégantic crash tragedy is beyond reproach. The government should look to strengthen health and safety provisions, not destroy them.”
Dias also raised the concern about the Conservative government’s repeated use of omnibus bills to radically change legislation - everything from the deeply flawed changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which eliminated the protection of thousands of lakes and waterways.
“Anything and everything ends up on the chopping block through these federal budget bills.”
The federal government has also repeatedly hidden behind private members bills to attack Canadian workers and the unions that represent them – such as through Bills C-377 and C-525, said Dias.
“There can be no doubt that this bill is part of a broader attack on Canadian workers,” said Dias, calling on the government to withdraw the bill. “We must ask, what exactly is the goal of weakening health and safety laws and collective bargaining rights for Canadian workers?”
Unifor represents approximately 80,000 workers in federally regulated sectors who would be affected by the health and safety changes to the Canada Labour Code.