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  • Legislative Update from Ottawa
    Updated On: Dec 10, 2013

    What the Federal government is doing that affects you as a worker and a union member

    Let’s start with some good news, Bill C-201
    Hamilton Mountain Member of Parliament Chris Charlton (NDP) has had her Private Member’s Bill C-201 reach 2nd reading after being introduced in Parliament in 2011. This Bill is aimed at allowing tradespersons and apprentices to deduct travel and accommodation expenses from their taxable income so they can secure and maintain employment at a construction site that is more than 80 kilometres away from their home.
    Currently, out of work tradespeople have to finance their own travel and accommodation should they wish to move to another region for work.

    Harper Government putting workers lives in danger
    The lives of almost one million Canadian workers will be placed in danger as a result of cynical amendments that the Conservative government is making to the Canada Labour Code. Buried deep in the government’s latest budget bill tabled on October 22 are amendments to the health and safety provisions of the Code that have nothing to do with balancing the budget, and everything to do with putting workers’ lives at risk.
    With Bill C-4, the government wants to water down the right to refuse dangerous work, end the role of federal Health and Safety Officers in the investigation process and give employers the power to discipline workers when they invoke the right to refuse dangerous work. All together, these changes would make the Canada Labour Code provisions on the right to refuse dangerous work the weakest in the country, and put workers’ lives at risk. These proposals have no business being put in a budget bill.
    Respond to this call for action here.

    Bill C-377: Amended… and then Harper prorogues Parliament
    Bill C-377, commonly referred to as the “anti-union Bill” put forward as a Private Member’s Bill by White Rock MP Russ Hiebert (Conservative) and passed by the Harper Conservative government in Parliament, unfairly seeks to impose rules on unions that are much more detailed and restrictive than any other organization must follow.
    Bill C-377 has been described as a deeply flawed piece of legislation that singles out unions to provide detailed and intrusive reports to the Canada Revenue Agency. Constitutional experts, privacy commissioners, provincial ministers of labour and unions have pointed out the Bill’s many flaws – and many more are calling for it’s complete dismissal.
    Sent to the Senate in December, 2012, it was anticipated the Conservative majority in the Senate would approve Bill C-377 as it was written. But, after weeks of debates, committee reviews and witness hearings, 16 Conservative Senators joined their Liberal counterparts and voted to approve amendments to the Bill, with an additional four Conservative Senators abstaining from the vote.
    By amending, or making changes to Bill C-377, this piece of legislation was sent back to Parliament where the government could either accept the changes, ignore the changes, send the legislation back to the Senate or drop the matter altogether.
    The government chose to send the Bill back to the Senate, virtually nullifying all the previous work that had been done to achieve the amendments and it now sits on the calendar, waiting to be tested again.

    And now… Bill C-525
    In June of this year, Wetaskiwin Alberta MP Blaine Calkins (Conservative) introduced Private Member’s Bill C-525, erroneously titled “Employees’ Voting Rights Act”, that is strategically aimed at workers and unions and seeks to make it extremely difficult for workers to organize unions in their workplaces. The Bill also makes it much easier to decertify, or “get rid of the union”, in workplaces - efforts that are usually led by the employer.
    This Bill, if passed into legislation, would count “non-votes” from employees who don’t show up to vote as voting against joining a union, and in a decertification vote, would count “non-votes” from employees who don’t show up to vote as supporting a union decertification.

    Labour Code changes target collective bargaining: CLC’s Georgetti calls it affront to democracy

    October, 2013 - Amendments that the Conservative government has slipped into a giant budget bill is an attack on the constitutional right to collective bargaining, says Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress.

    “The Conservative government is using a 308 page budget bill to do by stealth what they will not do by the light of day,” says Georgetti. “This government has a habit of using this technique to push things through it knows will be unpopular so that there is no chance for real debate. It’s playing partisan politics with their employees’ livelihoods.”

    Georgetti was responding to the government’s tabling the second part of its Economic Action Plan 2013 Act in the House of Commons on October 22. He says, “This Bill proposes big changes to the Public Services Labour Relations Act (PSLRA), especially around essential services, the dispute settlement mode and grievance procedure. There was no consultation on this with any of the parties affected.”

    Georgetti says the budget bill would undermine the right to collective bargaining by unilaterally designating services as essential. “There’s been no problem raised with the existing process to designate essential services, so what is the government trying to fix here?”

    The government is also changing the existing arbitration process for the federal public service, and putting the lives of workers in the federal jurisdiction in danger by introducing amendments to change the definition of dangerous work.

    “What we’re seeing here are amateurish moves that will disrupt the delicate balance of long-standing labour relations practices in the federal public service, and put the health and safety of federal workers at risk, all for purely ideological reasons,” Georgetti says. “The unintended consequences will likely be more disputes than Canadians have ever seen before and Canadians should ask to what end?”

    The Canadian Labour Congress, the national voice of the labour movement, represents 3.3 million Canadian workers. The CLC brings together Canada’s national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 130 district labour councils.

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