Restrictive Labour Laws

Labour Rights Under Attack

229 Restrictive labour laws

In the past three decades Canadians have seen a serious erosion of a fundamental and universal human right, their right to organize into a union and engage in full and free collective bargaining.  Federal and provincial governments have passed numerous labour laws since 1982 that have restricted, suspended or denied collective bargaining rights for Canadian workers.


Title Jurisdiction Type of Legislation Datesort ascending

An Act To Make Alberta Open For Business (Bill 2, July)

Bill 2 introduces a number of regressive changes to labour and employment legislation in Alberta and is partially aimed at rolling progressives changes introduced in 2017 by the previous NDP government. It eliminated the “card-based” method of union certification and requiring a representation vote in favour of the applicant union prior to certification, even if a majority of workers signed cards. The legislation also reduced the amount of time during which an employee’s application for membership in a trade union may constitute proof of employee support of a union for the purpose of a union’s certification application from 6 months after the employee’s application for membership to 90 days.

Changes to Alberta employment law introduced by Bill 2 include:

  • Reducing the minimum wage for employees aged 17 or younger will be reduced from $15 to $13 per hour.
  • Requiring employees to have worked at least 30 days in the 12 months preceding a general holiday in order to be eligible for general holiday pay.
  • Pay for a general holiday is not required if the employee does not work on the general holiday and the general holiday falls on a day that normally would not be a work day for the employee. For example, if a business is normally closed on Monday and the general holiday falls on Monday, employees would not receive pay for the general holiday.
  • Clarifying that, for employees who work an irregular schedule, such employees will be eligible for general holiday pay if, in at least 5 of the 9 weeks preceding the work week in which the general holiday occurs, the employee worked on the same day of the week as the day on which the general holiday falls.
  • Allowing overtime to be banked at a 1:1 rate under an overtime agreement rather than the current requirement to bank at a ratio of 1.5 hours off for every overtime hour worked.

Alberta Restrictions on certification July 2019

Public Sector Arbitration Deferral Act (Bill 9, June)

Bill 9 breaks legally binding contracts covering nearly 200,000 nurses, teachers and other public-sector workers in Alberta.  Current collective agreements covering public sector workers in the province included a two year pay freeze but allowed union members to reopen pay negotiations for the last year of the agreement before June 30, 2019— with arbitration if needed. Bill 9 delays wage re-opener negotiations (that in some cases have already begun) until after October 31, 2019. However the legislation goes beyond that. Section 5(c) allows the government to impose wage cuts on public-sector workers without negotiation or arbitration, and even without debate in the Legislature.

Alberta Suspension of bargaining rights June 2019

Labour Relations Amendment Act (Protecting Ontario's Power Supply) (Bill 67, December)

Bill 67 denies the right to strike to 6,000 members of Power Workers’ Union (PWU) employed by the government-owned Ontario Power Generation (OPG), which generates half of the province’s electricity. The legislation was pasted after PWU members rejected OPG's final offer at the bargaining table and voted to go on strike but before PWU members had the opportunity to exercise their right to strike. The Act  prohibit and stop any strikes or lockouts between OPG and PWU for the current round of bargaining and send all matters in dispute to a mediator-arbitrator for a dispute resolution process.

Ontario Back to work - dispute sent to arbitration December 2018

Making Ontario Open for Business Act (Bill 47, November)

Bill 47 made several changes to various pieces of legislation governing employment and labour relations in Ontario, principally the Labour Relations Act (LRA) and the Employment Standards Act (ESA). It reversed many of the changes to the LRA and the ESA that were enacted by the previous Liberal government in Bill 148 in late 2017, but did not constitute a straight repeal of Bill 148.

With respect to the LRA, Bill 47 eliminated:

  • Card-based certification in the building services industry, home care and community services industry, and temporary help agency industry, while leaving it in place for the construction industry;
  • A provision introduced by Bill 148 by which a trade union can get an employee list upon demonstrating 20% support in the proposed bargaining unit;
  • The ability of the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) to amend or consolidate bargaining units;
  • First collective agreement mediation and first agreement arbitration as of right, allowing the OLRB to order first collective agreement arbitration under certain circumstances;
  • The OLRB's ability to remedially certify a trade union without a vote where it decides the first vote did not reflect the true wishes of the employees;
  • The power of the government to expand enhanced successor rights protections for unions in “contract flipping” scenarios outside the building services industry; and
  • The requirement for an employer to reinstate a striking employee following six months of strike.

With respect to the ESA, Bill 47 among other things:

  • Canceled the legislated hike of the minimum wage from $14 an hour to $15 an hour effective January 1, 2019, instead freezing the minimum wage at $14 an hour until October 1, 2020, at which point it will be adjusted annually by the rate of inflation;
  • Removed the entitlement to Personal Emergency Leave (PEL), which provided employees with ten days annually of leave (the first two of which are paid) to attend to personal or family illness or other urgent matters, and substituted for up to eight unpaid leave days;
  • Eliminated the right to equal pay for part-time, contract, temporary, and temporary help agency workers vis-à-vis full time workers; and
  • Scrapped a provision introduced in Bill 148 that puts the burden on an employer to prove that a worker is an independent contractor rather than an employee.

Ontario Restrictions on certification November 2018

Postal Services Resumption and Continuation Act (Bill C-89, November)

The Act legislates an end to rotating strikes by member of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW).  It provides for the dispute to be settled within 90 days by a mediator-arbitrator appointed by the federal government. Failing that, a settlement could be imposed either through a decision from the arbitrator, or by choosing from one of the final proposals put forward by Canada Post or CUPW. Bill C-89 also imposes fines of between $1,000 and $50,000 per day on anyone found in contravention of the Act, and up to $100,000 per day against Canada Post or the union if they are found guilty of violating its terms

Federal Government Back to work - dispute sent to arbitration November 2018

Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Labour Dispute Resolution Act (Bill 178, November)

This Act legislated an end to a five week strike by a province-wide bargaining unit of 12,000 Ontario college faculty who are employed in Ontario's 24 public colleges. The faculty members are represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees' Union (OPSEU/NUPGE). All  matters remaining in dispute are sent to a mediator-arbitrator, who has exclusive jurisdiction to determine all matters that he or she considers necessary to conclude a new collective agreement.

Ontario Back to work - dispute sent to arbitration November 2017

Public Service Sustainability Act (Bill 148, August)

Bill 148 imposes a four-year wage package on Nova Scotia's 75,000 public service employee. The legislation was originally passed in December 2015 but was not proclaimed until August 2017. It imposes a wage pattern of three per cent over a four-years in collective agreements covering unions that refused to accept the same offer from government at the bargaining table or planned to challenge the government’s wage offer through arbitration or strike. The Bill will also ends the accrual of long service awards for those members who have them effective April 1st, 2015, and these awards will be paid at 2014 wage rates and will not be offered to those members hired after April 1st, 2015.

Nova Scotia Suspension of bargaining rights August 2017

The Public Services Sustainability Act (Bill 28, June)

This Act restricts collective bargaining by imposing a two-year wage freeze on all new public sector collective agreements covering 120,000 public employees in Manitoba. It establishes a floating four-year period for unionized employees, which begins or began, on the expiry of the existing term of a collective agreement or arbitral decision in place as of March 20, 2017. The statutory compensation framework imposed during the applicable period includes: a two-year wage freeze; a maximum increase of 0.75% to the rate of pay in year three; and a maximum increase of 1.0% to the rate of pay in year four. In addition to general salary increases, any other monetary benefits (e.g. premiums, bonuses, allowances etc.) cannot be increased at the bargaining table.

Manitoba Suspension of bargaining rights June 2017

The Health Sector Bargaining Unit Review Act (Bill 29, June)

 The purpose of this Act is to reduce the number of bargaining units in the health sector by establishing a fixed number of seven (7) bargaining units for each of the regional health authorities.  The seven agreements would be for nurses, physicians, medical residents, physician’s assistants, professional/technical/paramedic, facility support and community support, and are specific to each Regional Health Authority.

The bargaining agent for each legislated bargaining unit will be selected through a representation vote of the employees in that new unit.  The selected bargaining agent’s existing collective agreement that covers the most employees will become the basis for negotiating a new collective agreement for the newly legislated bargaining unit. A Commissioner appointed by Government will oversee the process, which will affect all the health regions, as well as the province-wide health employers, such as CancerCare Manitoba, Diagnostic Services Manitoba Inc., and any others that may be added by Regulation. The Commissioner must determine the bargaining agent for each “health region” and for each “province-wide health employer”, by selecting from the unions that represent employees in the unit on the date this Act comes into effect. If there are multiple bargaining agents, the Commissioner must conduct a secret ballot vote and determine rules and eligibility for employees to vote

 An employer’s organization will be created for each health region and for each province-wide health employer for the sole purpose of collective bargaining.  In addition, the Minister will appoint one or more representatives to bargain on behalf of the employer organizations, and on behalf of the province-wide health employers.

Manitoba Restrictions on scope of bargaining June 2017

An Act to ensure the resumption of work in the construction industry and the settlement of disputes for the renewal of the collective agreements (Bill 142, May)

The legislation outlawed a six-day old strike by 175,000 construction workers. It stipulated that the collective agreements covering all three sectors of the construction industry—residential construction; civil engineering and roads; and institutional, commercial and industrial—last for four years, ending April 30, 2021.  The legislation granted construction workers a wage increase of 1.8 percent pending the finalization of their new contracts.  It also triggered an immediate five-month mediation period to allow unions and construction companies to hammer out a new collective agreement, after which they will be required to enter into arbitration.

Quebec Back to work - dispute sent to arbitration May 2017