Canada must do more to protect the rights of workers
OTTAWA – Slap-on-the-wrist penalties and a complete failure to enforce federal labour standards add up to a betrayal of Canadian workers by their national government, the Green Party said today.
“Parking tickets are prosecuted more rigorously than violations of the Canada Labour Code,” said Green Party leader Elizabeth May. “Canada must do more to protect the rights of workers, especially those in non-union workplaces.”
In Fairness at Work, the Federal Labour Standards Review of the Canada Labour Code, Commissioner Harry Arthurs reported that during the past 20 years, not a single prosecution had been launched under Part III of the code, which deals with hours of work, wages, overtime, reprisals and unjust dismissal.
“We endorse the Commissioner’s recommendation that Part III of the code be amended to provide effective deterrents to labour standards violations,” said Ms. May. “People need to be informed of their fundamental workplace rights and have these rights protected by the ministries charged with enforcing labour standards.”
There is growing concern over the state of labour standards amid reports that unpaid overtime is on the rise and the International Labour Organization’s condemnation of Canada as one of the world’s worst violators of basic labour rights. This is particularly serious in an immigrant-rich society such as Canada’s where many newcomers may not be aware of their rights.
Ms. May said that countries with the highest labour standards dominate the World Economic Forum rankings of most competitive economies in the world. “The federal government must learn and apply the labour lessons that have put Switzerland, Finland, Sweden and Denmark at the top of the international competitiveness list,” said Ms. May.
The Green Party calls on the federal government to raise penalties available under the Canada Labour Code from the current derisory levels to at least the level of provincial legislation such as the Ontario Employment Standards Act and to make enforcement a priority. Also in line with provincial legislation, posters informing all federally-regulated workers of their rights under the Canada Labour Code should be prominently displayed in workplaces.