Canada should enforce its own labour standards

President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico, President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hold a signing ceremony for the new United States Mexico Canada Agreement in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

In fact, the Americans – with the quiet backing of Canada’s Liberal government – want only Mexico, the third country in the deal, to toughen its labour standards. They are quite happy with the status quo in their own countries.

They shouldn’t be. Workers in both Canada and the U.S. face serious barriers in their efforts to make a decent living.

True, Mexico’s low labour standards and wages pose a real problem for other North American workers. Manufacturers from Canada and the U.S. have moved their operations to Mexico to take advantage of its bargain-basement wage structure.

But that was the whole point of NAFTA. It was designed, in large part, to reduce wage growth in Canada and the U.S. It did so by putting highly paid workers in those countries in direct competition with Mexicans.

Mexican auto workers, for instance, make less than $4 an hour – a fraction of what their Canadian and American counterparts earn.

Still, it’s a bit rich for House Democrats to worry about this now. They had a chance to kill NAFTA at birth 26 years ago. So did Canada’s Liberals. Neither availed themselves of the opportunity.

What’s really galling, however, is the hypocrisy. Yes, Mexican labour standards are worse than those of its northern neighbours. But Canada and the U.S.

In various U.S. states, so called right-to-work laws have made it near impossible to unionize employees.

Canada is more subtle. With the notable exception of Ontario’s ban on organizing farm workers, Canadian provinces don’t usually bother with blatant anti-union laws. Instead, they achieve much the same end through complex regulations that simply make union organization more difficult.

Provinces like Ontario let employers avoid labour standards, such as the right to vacation pay, by pretending that their workers are self-employed, independent contractors.

Provinces like Ontario have also deliberately not kept their labour laws in sync with the requirements of the new economy – one characterized by franchising, digital employment and part-time work.

More to the point, provinces like Ontario don’t enforce the labour standards that do exist. Citing budget constraints and an aversion to red tape, they cut back workplace inspections and respond inadequately to real com

As my colleague Sara Mojtehedzadeh reported recently, Ontario workers can’t be assured of getting the wages they are owed even when the province’s labour ministry rules in their favour.

None of this is meant to suggest that Mexican wage rates and labour standards are adequate. As Mexican workers themselves know, they are not.

And as long as Canada remains in NAFTA, it is in our interest to side with the U.S. House Democrats in their efforts to raise Mexican labour standards.

But before Canada’s Liberal government gets too self-righteous, it might want to reflect on the problems with work, wages and labour standards in this country. We too have a long way to go. SOURCE

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Ontario Government Passes Wage Restraint Legislation

Image result for wage restraint legislation

On November 8, 2019, the Provincial Government passed Bill 124, “the Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act, 2019” (“Bill 124”). Bill 124 imposes wage restraint in the public sector for both unionized and non-unionized employees. The purpose of this legislation is “to ensure that increases in public sector compensation reflect the fiscal situation of the Province, are consistent with the principles of responsible fiscal management and protect the sustainability of public services.”

Bill 124 applies to certain public sector entities, including not-for-profit entities that received at least $1,000,000 in funding from the Ontario Government in 2018.

Bill 124 creates a 3 year “moderation period” during which time compensation increases for individual positions must be limited to no more than 1% per year. For non-unionized employers the 3 year “moderation period” begins on a date selected by the employer after June 5, 2019 or January 1, 2022, whichever occurs first. Accordingly, employers have some degree of flexibility in determining when the wage restraints begin. For unionized employers, the “moderation period” generally begins after current collective agreements expire. As such, the wage restraint measures do not impact current collective agreements.

The restraint measures in Bill 124 do not apply to prohibit an employee’s salary rate from increasing due to (a) length of employment; (b) an assessment of performance; or (c) the employee’s successful completion of a program or course of professional or technical education. As an example, wage progression grids in a Collective Agreement based on seniority will not be impacted.

The Government included anti-avoidance provisions in Bill 124 to prohibit employers from providing ‘catch-up’ payments to employees (either before or after the “moderation period”).

It is important to note that Bill 124 offers protection for employers against claims made by employees (e.g. constructive dismissal) who may be adversely impacted by the employer’s compliance with the wage restraint measures.

Bill 124 is controversial amongst labour unions who have signalled that they may challenge Bill 124 on constitutional grounds in the Courts. However, as of today, Bill 124 is law and employers are obliged to comply. Accordingly, public sector employers should immediately review their compensation policies and practices. Non-union employers should take advantage of the flexibility offered by Bill 124 in deciding when the “moderation period” should begin. For those employers entering collective bargaining, recognition must be given to the fact that the “moderation period” will apply going forward. As such, negotiations must respect the 1% limit set out in the legislation.

SOURCE

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The Anti-Union Justin Trudeau

Trudeau is making an illegal push to end a major series of strikes. But unions can’t count on the courts to save them — only direct action can get the goods.


Justin Trudeau at the World Bank headquarters in Washington DC, March 2016. World Bank / Flickr.

Members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), the country’s most militant union, have been negotiating a new contract since November 2017. They have been fighting for job security, pay equity, and health and safety. Canada Post made a profit of $144 million in 2017, thanks to growing parcel delivery due to online shopping. With the legalization of cannabis in Canada — available only for online home delivery in the largest province of Ontario — profits are expected to climb even higher. MORE