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Labour rights are Human rights

Historical Events

December 14, 2007

The federal Wage Earner Protection Program Act received Royal Assent. The legislation gave all workers legal protection for their wages and benefits, guaranteeing the payment of up to $3,000 when their employer goes bankrupt. Previously, only about a quarter of workers received any payment in the case of employer bankruptcy.

December 15, 2005

The Charest Liberal government in Quebec introduced and proclaimed An Act Respecting the Working Conditions in the Public Sector (Bill 142) all in one day. The law legislated an unprecedented seven-year contract on 500,000 hospital workers, teachers, civil servants, school support staff and other provincial public sector workers. Bill 142 imposed a 33-month wage freeze retroactive to June 30, 2003, and annual wage increases of two percent in the last four years of the legislated contract that expires March 2010.

December 10, 2005

Jack Layton, leader of the federal New Democratic Party, became the first national leader to sign a pledge committing his party to abide by the worker's Bill of Rights, a formal document developed by the National Union affirming that ' all workers have the right to join and form unions without interference by an employer or government and the right to bargain collectively as the means of determining their wages, working conditions and terms of employment", All other federal leaders subsequently signed the Workers' Bill of Rights, with the exception of Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party.

December 21, 2000

The Mike Harris government in Ontario proclaimed another piece of anti-union legislation, An Act to Amend the Labour Relations Act (Bill 139). The legislation made it easier for workers to get rid of unions; ban union organizing drives for 12 months after a failed attempt at unionization; require unions to disclose the salary and benefits of all union officials earning over $100,000 a year; and required that notices be put up in all unionized workplaces describing the procedure by which employees can initiate the decertification of their union. Predictably the legislation did not stipulate that signs describing the process by which a union is formed and certified be placed in non-union workplaces. The worst sections of the legislation were subsequently repealed by the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty.

December 21, 1966

This date represents the genesis of the Canada Labour Code when the Canada Labour (Safety) Code received Royal Assent. The legislation established occupational health and safety standards for workplaces under federal jurisdiction. Section 30 of the 1966 Code required the Statute Revision Commission of Canada to consolidate these standards, along with other labour-related statutes, into a single Canada Labour Code. The other statutes were the Canada Labour Code (Standards); the female Employees Equal Pay Act; the Canada Fair Employment Practices Act; and the Canada Fair Employment Practices Act; and the industrial Relations and Disputes Investigation Act. The first consolidation of the Canada Labour Code was proclaimed into force on July 15, 1971 and covered occupational health and safety; industrial relations; employment standards; and human rights.With the exception of the human rights section which is now covered by the Canadian Human Rights Act, the 1971 consolidation reflected what is now contained in the three distinct parts of the current code.

December 4, 2007

New Brunswick joined the federal government and the province of Manitoba in passing the Public Interest Disclosure Act, whistleblowers protection legislation. After decades of pressure for effective protection, the legislation in all three jurisdictions showed real progress, but fell short in providing adequate protection to workers. None of the legislation covered the private sector and each puts as much emphasis on the limitations on whistleblowing as it did on the protection of whistleblowers. The laws all carefully control who a whistleblower can speak to about the wrongdoing – the employer or to a designated government official, but forbid them from going to their union, a politician, the media or the police, unless there is a demonstrated emergency.

December 20, 2001

The Supreme Court of Canada released its Dunmore decision against the section of the Ontario Labour Relations Act, which excluded agricultural workers from joining a union. The Court held that excluding agricultural workers from participating in union activities was a violation of their right to freedom of association, section 2 (d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

December 3, 1979

The start of the first strike in the Ontario public service and the first province-wide illegal strike. Correctional Officers (COs) walked off the job for three days in support of a demand for their own separate bargaining unit. The resolution was an arbitrated settlement in which COs get theirs separate group. In the subsequent round of bargaining, COs get a 27 per cent increase. Sean O’Flynn, President of NUPGE’s Component, the Ontario Public Service Employees, however, was jailed for 23 days in 1980 for his role in the illegal corrections strike.

December 10, 1948

The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration was one of the UN’s first major achievements, and remains a powerful instrument and symbol worldwide. Article 23 of the Declaration recognizes the right to join a union and bargain collectively as a basic human right. The first draft of the historic document was written by a Canadian, John Peters Humphry. International Human Rights Day is celebrated annually around the world on December 10, in recognition of the ratification of the 1948 UN Declaration.

December 19, 1925

The government of British Columbia adopted the Men's Minimum Wage Act, making it the first province to legislate a minimum wage for male workers. Almost a decade passed before other jurisdictions extended the minimum wage to men with PEI being the last to do so, in 1960. Prior to 1925, six provinces had enacted minimum wage legislation that applied only to female workers in some types of employment. Unions in Canada at the time generally considered that they were in a better position to ensure adequate wages for men through collective bargaining, but they supported State intervention to protect working women, who were mostly unorganized and more vulnerable to exploitation.

Take Action

Draft a resolution

Draft and sponsor a resolution to your Federation of Labour or Labour Council condemning the use of labour laws that restrict or deny the fundamental rights of workers and proposing that progressive labour law reform be a central focus of labour’s political agenda.

Sign the Workers’ Bill of Rights

Since 2006, thousands, including all Federal Leaders of the Opposition, have signed a pledge to uphold workers rights.

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