Regular violations of rights

Same as last year


Workers' rights violations

Legislative reform

In November 2022, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and Canada’s labour movement celebrated the repeal of Bill 28, draconian anti-worker legislation introduced by the Ontario government. The bill unilaterally imposed a collective contract on 55,000 education workers and levied hefty fines for striking. The move escalated a bitter dispute over salary demands for education workers, including custodians, early childhood educators and education assistants.

Earlier in 2022, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents more than 700,000 workers across Canada, had called for an 11.3 per cent pay rise for its education support workers in Ontario – often the lowest-paid in schools – arguing that stagnant wage growth and high inflation had hit these workers the hardest. The Ontario government countered with a 2.5 per cent annual raise for the lowest-income workers and 1.5 per cent raises for others.

With little progress on negotiations and a strike planned on 4 November, the government fast-tracked Bill 28 on 3 November to strip workers of their right to strike, force a contract, and impose fines for striking workers of CA$4,000 (US$3,000) and for the union – CA$500,000 (US$375,000) – a day. To justify this move, the Ontario government invoked the rarely used legal mechanism known as the Notwithstanding Clause, which allows provincial and territorial governments to override certain portions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for a five-year period. The legislation marked the first time in the country’s history that the right of workers to collectively bargain and to strike was legally stripped away.

Despite the threat of heavy fines, thousands of education workers peacefully walked out on 4 November to protest the imposed collective contract and the ban on strikes.

Faced with the determination of thousands of workers and their unions, on the morning of 7 November the provincial government committed to repeal the bill and head back to the bargaining table.

Right to trade union activities

In early July 2020, the provincial government of Alberta, Canada, introduced Bill 32 (the Restoring Balance in Alberta’s Workplaces Act), an omnibus bill that amended Alberta’s labour and employment legislation. In addition to provisions that limited strike activities and interfered with union self-administration, the bill made it more difficult to form unions by eliminating timelines for certification votes and by removing the option for the Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB) to automatically certify unions in the case of unfair labour practices by the employer. Bill 32 also requires unions to receive each member’s consent to collect dues that are not related to core representational activities.

Right to collective bargaining

In Canada, trade unions registered significant numbers of cases of employers engaging in bad faith collective bargaining. In November 2022, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Canada filed a complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board, alleging Metrolinx, the employer of Go Transit Workers in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), engaged in bad faith bargaining.

Dismissals for participating in strike action

In Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, the provincial government forced workers back to work after a four-day strike by adopting Bill 24, the Essential Ambulance Services Act. The new bill, passed on 24 January 2023, required a hundred private ambulance workers to return to work by deeming them essential services. The bill covers paramedics and emergency medical responders who are employed by Fewer’s Ambulance Service Ltd. and represented by Teamsters Local 855.

Dismissals for participating in strike action

In October 2022, 110 members of Unifor local 177 at the Ash Grove cement plant in Joliette, Quebec, Canada, started returning to work after more than 16 months of an illegal lockout. Workers had been locked out from the plant owned by Irish cement giant CRH, since May 2021 after they rejected the employer’s pay offer. The majority of Unifor’s members voted in favour of the wage recommendation of the Ministry of Labour and Employment conciliator and, under the new contract, workers will receive a significant wage increase.

However, this long-lasting dispute gave rise to important legal questions as, throughout the lockout, the company resorted to replacement workers (scabs). The Administrative Labour Tribunal, following a complaint by Unifor, ruled that the company employed workers who teleworked and had therefore violated the anti-scab provisions of the Labour Code, even though they were not in the locked-out establishment itself. The employer has appealed, and the case is yet to be heard.

Dismissals for participating in strike action

In Canada, over 28,000 members of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), actors and other performers, were the target of one of the largest lockouts in the history of the country. Their employer, the Institute of Canadian Agencies (ICA), is an umbrella organisation representing Canadian advertising agencies. For over 60 years, ACTRA and the ICA have been parties to a collective agreement covering radio and TV advertising, along with the Association of Canadian Advertisers (ACA).

Throughout almost a year of negotiations to renew the collective agreement, the ICA tried to gut the collective agreement and came to the table with proposals that would have reduced wages by 60 per cent, completely cut benefits and eliminated the retirement plan.

After imposing a lockout deadline of 26 April 2022, the ICA declared the agreement expired and unlawfully locked out ACTRA’s 28,000 members from the workplace. The ACA did not support the ICA’s union-busting tactics and later reached an agreement with ACTRA to renew the NCA for a one-year term.

ACTRA filed an unfair labour practice complaint against the ICA with the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

Workers’ rights in law

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