Regular violations of rights

Worse than last year


Workers' rights violations

Right to civil liberties

In Canada, during the protracted conflict between the Co-op Refinery Complex and Unifor Local 594 regarding the negotiation of the collective agreement, union members began holding rallies and picketing while the company locked them out.

On 16 December 2019, the employer sought a court injunction against Unifor to impose interim restrictions on Unifor’s ability to picket, including restrictions on the amount of time picketers could detain vehicles from entering the premises. Over the next month, there were accusations of union members violating this order, and on 21 January 2021, Unifor president Jerry Dias and thirteen other union members were arrested.

In the early morning of 5 February 2020, union members were arrested and charged for picketing outside of the Co-op refinery’s petroleum distribution department in Regina, Saskatchewan. Those arrested included Ryan James David Briggs, James Peter Robert Cheeseman, Scott McKinnon, and Steven Angus Vargo. All four trade unionists were charged with mischief under Can$5,000 (US$ 4,002) and disobeying a court order. Their scheduled court date was 23 March 2020.

On 12 February, Unifor was ordered to pay Can$250,000 (US$200,084) for “repeatedly violating the court injunction” between 28 December 2019 and 27 January 2020. The Unifor Local 594 president, Kevin Bittman, was found not guilty, while vice president Lance Holowachuk was found guilty and required to perform 40 hours of community service.

Right to trade union activities

In Canada, the province of Alberta introduced Bill 32, an omnibus bill which makes it more difficult to form unions: the bill eliminates timelines for certification votes and removes the option for the Labour Relations Board to automatically certify unions in the case of unfair labour practices by the employer. In addition, the bill also requires unions to receive each member’s consent to collect dues that are not related to core representational activities. The bill received royal assent on 29 July 2020.

In the province of Manitoba, the government tabled Bill 16 which, among other regressive changes, would give authorities more power to refuse to certify unions, to scrutinise unions’ use of funds and to dissolve them.


On 27 April 2020, food delivery service Foodora Canada announced that it would be leaving the Canadian market effective 11 May and filed for bankruptcy, stating its “inability to turn a profit and the saturation of the Canadian food delivery market” as the reasons for its departure. However, the timing was suspect, as the announcement came in the context of an ongoing application for certification by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) before the Ontario Labour Relations Board, which, on 25 February 2020, had handed down a decision recognising that Foodora couriers were dependent contractors and therefore entitled to collectively bargain. That decision allowed the union certification votes, sealed since August 2019, to be counted. In June 2020, the results were announced: almost 90 percent of Foodora couriers voted in favour of unionising with CUPW, becoming the first app-based workers in Canada to successfully unionise. In August 2020, CUPW and Foodora couriers celebrated a win as CUPW and Delivery Hero, the parent company for Foodora Canada, reached a settlement of Can$3.46 million to compensate the couriers.

Prosecution of union leaders for participating in strikes

In Saskatchewan, Canada, the protracted conflict over the renewal of the collective agreement at the Co-op Refinery Complex escalated, and in December 2019 the employer served a lockout notice to Unifor Local 594 while the union served a strike notice and began holding rallies and picketing. Soon after, the company sought an injunction from the court to impose restrictions on Unifor’s ability to picket, and over the next month, Co-op Refinery Complex accused union members of violating this order. Over the course of the next months, several union members were arrested for picketing: on 21 January 2020, the Unifor president, Jerry Dias, was arrested alongside thirteen other union members, while on 5 February 2020, four union members picketing outside the company premises were arrested and charged with mischief. On 5 May 2020, four more union members were charged for picketing. Unifor was also heavily penalised with a first fine amounting to Can$100,000 (US$80,142) in January 2020 and another fine of Can$250,000 (US$200,356) in February 2020. Meanwhile, the company flew in replacement workers.

Later in the year, union members stood trial. The president of Unifor Local 594, Kevin Bittman, was found not guilty, while vice-president Lance Holowachuk was found guilty and was required to perform 40 hours of community service.

A collective agreement was finally signed in July 2020. However, upon the return of union members to work, the management of Co-op Refinery Complex began questioning them about their role during the lockout. Unifor immediately filed an application with the authorities to bar the employer from asking such questions and retaliating against striking workers.

Workers’ rights in law

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