Quebec’s Bill 78 Shifts the Struggle to a Battle for Democracy and the Right to Dissent

Rebel Youth Montreal Bureau

Last night the Charest Liberal government tabled its repressive Duplessis-style legislation while thousands of protesters marched well past mid-night in the streets of Quebec City and Montreal, waving flags, chanting and even burning a draft of the repressive law.

Bill 78 passed this afternoon with the right-wing CAQ party voting in favour, propping-up the precarous posistion of the Charest Liberals who are currently holding onto a majority of only one vote (following the resignation of the Minister of Education last week).  Links to the law in English are below.

The vote passed 68-48 at about 5:30 p.m. Continue reading

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Ontario Should Change Farm Worker Laws: International Labour Organization

Organization concurs with human rights complaint, calls on province to change

Canadian Labour Reporter

The UN agency responsible for formulating international labour standards, including labour rights, agrees with a Canadian union that Ontario’s farm worker legislation should be amended.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) concluded on March 28 that Ontario’s Agricultural Employees Protection Act (AEPA), “is insufficient to ensure the collective bargaining rights of agricultural workers under the principles of freedom of association.”

The ILO ruling is the result of a 2009 complaint filed by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union of Canada that the AEPA violated human and labour rights of Ontario agriculture workers under ILO Convention 87 – Freedom of association and protection of the right to organize (1948); and ILO Convention 98 – The right to organize and bargaining collectively (1949).

“The ILO’s conclusion is consistent with our position that the AEPA provides no teeth for Ontario farm workers to exercise their fundamental workplace right to meaningful representation,” says UFCW Canada president Wayne Hanley. “Unless the AEPA is amended, agriculture workers in Ontario will continue to be some of the most vulnerable and exploited workers in the province, and excluded from the rights and protections that other workers in the province have the freedom to exercise.”

Under the AEPA — brought in by the Mike Harris/Ernie Eves government in 2002 — agricultural employees can join or form associations but are prohibited from joining unions. They can make representations to their employer, but the employer is not obliged to act.

In 2008, in the wake of the UFCW’s challenge based on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled the AEPA violated the freedom of association rights of Ontario farm workers under Section 2(d) of the Charter.

In April 2011, however, the Supreme Court of Canada reversed the appeal ruling in the Fraser decision. The AEPA provided freedom of association — given the assumption the employer would act “in good faith,” the court said.

But according to the ILO’s most recent decision, “good faith” might not cut it:

“Collective bargaining implies an ongoing engagement in a give-and-take process, recognizing the voluntary nature of collective bargaining and the autonomy of the parties. In the Committee’s view, the duty to consider employee representations in good faith, which merely obliges employers to give a reasonable opportunity for representations and listen or read them — even if done in good faith, does not guarantee such a process,” the ruling reads. “The Committee therefore concludes that the AEPA would need to be amended to ensure respect of these principles.”

Only the federal government has the authority to ratify ILO conventions into Canadian law, but the implementation of many conventions falls under federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions, given the division of powers under the Canadian Constitution. Canada says its long-standing practice with respect to ILO conventions dealing with matters under federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions has been to ratify ILO conventions only if all jurisdictions consent with ratification and agree to implement the conventions without reservation in their respective jurisdictions.

Unless Ontario farm worker legislation is amended, basic human rights will continue to be violated, the UFCW says.

“As for good faith, the record on the AEPA speaks for itself, as every day farm workers are fired, threatened, or shipped out if they raise a concern about their safety or treatment,” says Hanley. “We agree with the ILO that it is time for the Ontario government to step up to the plate and do the right thing (…) We invite the government to sit down and consult to amend the legislation and right a situation that currently is wrong.”

*note: © Copyright Canadian HR Reporter, Thomson Reuters Canada Limited. All rights reserved. Original article here.

Feds Urged to Use Back-to-Work Legislation Only in ‘Very Extreme’ Cases

by Steve Rennie

Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt delivers a statement in the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, March 13, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt delivers a statement in the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, March 13, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

OTTAWA – An appeal from federal bureaucrats to use back-to-work legislation only as a last resort in labour disputes at Air Canada appears to have fallen on deaf ears.

The Department of Human Resources and Skills Development advised the governing Conservatives in a secret report to use the powerful legal measure only sparingly after the airline’s customer-service and sales staff walked out last June.

The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the July 21 report under the Access to Information Act.

In it, senior officials urged the Tories to save the back-to-work law for emergencies. The bureaucrats were not convinced the walkout by customer-service agents constituted anything more than a nuisance to air travellers.

“This is an option to be used only in very extreme circumstances where there is a serious impact on the national economy — in this instance it would appear to be more of an inconvenience to travellers who would have to rely on other modes of transportation,” the document says.

That piece of advice came after Labour Minister Lisa Raitt had already tabled back-to-work legislation to end labour unrest between Air Canada and its customer-service agents. The two sides reached a deal before the measure could be enacted.

A few months later, Raitt again threatened further back-to-work legislation when it looked like Air Canada’s flight attendants might walk off the job. The labour minister also sought to head off a strike by referring the dispute to the Canada Industrial Relations Board, allegedly over health and safety concerns during a work stoppage. The lead arbitrator subsequently imposed the last deal rejected by flight attendants.

Fast-forward to the airline’s latest bout of labour unrest. The House of Commons just voted to send a pair of disputes at Air Canada to binding arbitration even before a threatened strike and lockout. The legislation covers about 3,000 pilots and 8,600 mechanics, baggage handlers and other ground crew.

On Tuesday, Air Canada pilots filed a legal challenge in an Ontario court, arguing that federal legislation contravened their charter rights.

Raitt’s spokeswoman did not directly answer questions about the department’s recommendations for using back-to-work legislation.

“Our government acted in the public’s best interest and the best interests of the national economy,” Ashley Kelahear wrote in an email. She did not immediately respond to a follow-up question about the report.

The Human Resources and Skills Development report gave several options to settle labour disputes, including back-to-work legislation. The other options were mediation, summoning both sides to Ottawa to meet Raitt, binding arbitration, ordering a vote on an employer offer and referring the dispute to the Canada Industrial Relations Board.

The Tories have not been shy about passing bills to prevent work stoppages. The House of Commons passed a bill in June ordering 48,000 Canada Post employees back to work.

*source: The Canadian Press