The 2019 federal budget introduced potential changes to the Canada Labour Code. This is the law that governs federally regulated workplaces. The government struck an Expert Panel to look at potential changes. PSAC reviewed the panel’s Issue Papers and answered 5 important questions. Our answers are summarized below, to read the entire submission, you can find it here. We know that the Expert Panel has submitted its report to the Minister, and we eagerly await her response. We’ll be sure to tell you about it when we receive it.
They asked if there should be a federal minimum wage.
We said Yes! We also said that it should be enshrined in law, that it should be a living wage and it should be indexed to inflation so that it will rise regularly. We further told them that the government, as well as its contractors, suppliers and crown agencies, should only do business with those who pay a living wage. The government needs to lead by example and making sure that its own workers do not face poverty is one way to do this.
They asked if workers in ‘non-standard’ work (not full-time, not permanent, not Monday to Friday 9-5) should have the same rights and protections as standard workers.
We said Yes! But firstly, we said that government has a responsibility to put into place measures to reduce this kind of precariousness work. Of course, when that is not possible, they need to ensure that these workers have equivalent rights and protections as others. We need to urgently move away from the government’s dependence on predatory temp agencies and the use of contractors who have no rights or protections.
They asked if employees should have the right to disconnect from work outside of their workplace hours.
We said Yes! Even though we are often all connected by computers and smartphones, it does not give our employers the right to make us 24/7 employees. Workers must be able to disconnect completely from their work and know that they will not be penalized if they do. An employer or colleague would not be permitted to randomly knock on your door at dinner time and start engaging you about work. – so they shouldn’t be able to do it by email either. And if there is a need to remain plugged in after-hours because of the nature of your work, you should be compensated for it.
They asked if workers in non-standard work should have similar benefits as workers in standard jobs.
We said Yes! We said that we need a better public retirement system, with improvements to CPP, OAS and GIS, along with a national mandatory pension insurance scheme, and, with ways for struggling defined benefit private plans to be transferred to large, securely-funded public-sector plans. We also said that Canadians need better leave provisions, and national holidays for Family Day and Indigenous Day. Furthermore, we said it’s past time for universal pharmacare!
They asked if workers in non-unionized, non-standard workplaces should have a mechanism for a collective voice.
We said Yes...but that we call it unionization; Simply because the nature of work and workplaces has changed over time, it does not mean that workers’ rights or the need to unionize have changed. In fact, unions are needed now more than ever. We said that the government needs to adjust processes and laws to make it possible for these workers to organize effectively. If workers don’t know each other because they have virtual workspaces, are dispatched electronically, and never meet each other, then it is more difficult for them to organize. This needs to be offset with labour standards that require the employer to share worker lists without an unachievable card signature threshold.