The Canada Labor Code became a law on March 18, 1965. It is not always possible to trace the precise germ of an idea that is eventually embodied in law. Because of this fact and because the idea is unlikely ever to be enacted unless it is widely propagated, it is usually both more feasible and more fruitful to describe the manner in which it is disseminated and popularized. Also it is vitally important to make comparative analysis of two legislations, laws, and code in order to discover salient features of both the codes under study. In this way it can be predicted if the evolution process in the form of legislative amendments is serving its purpose and how it would be possible to evaluate it further.
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The purpose Canada Labor Code is to prevent accidents and injury to health arising out of, linked with or occurring in the course of employment to which this Part applies. This code applies to employees working under federal jurisdiction. Labor can safeguard their rights under the Canada Labor Code by collective bargaining with individual employers as well as by such legislative standards. The two methods are usually used in conjunction, consequently, for while unorganized workers who cannot bargain effectively with their employers generally gain most from such legislation, organized labor welcome it too as setting a minimum from which to bargain upward.
Method of Study
In order to analyze salient features of both the 1966 Canadian Labor Code and the current Canada Labor code part II, the comparative methodology is adopted. Many scholars argue that comparative law is conducted between and/or among legal systems or legal traditions. A mere application of comparative methodology between or among the two codes is not comparative methodology in a true sense. However, comparative legislation – which refers to the process whereby the laws are invoked in order to draft new national laws – is also applicable at a level of comparison between the legislation of two codes for the same purpose.
The Canada Labor Code 1966
The Canada Labor Code, Bill No. C-126, was introduced into the House of commons by the Minister of Labor, Allan MacEachen, on October 1, 1964. On October 13, nearly two weeks after it was introduced, MacEachen moved second reading of the bill. The Minister made the customary major speech in order to outline the background and to explain the various provisions of his proposed legislation. He claimed, in his only reference to the Liberal platform, that the bill “expressly implements the undertaking given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Pearson) in the city of Hamilton on March 25, 1963, outlining the labor policy of the present government. He then reported to the House with “delight” that the bill’s first reading had been received with approval by the Canadian Labor Congress and the Confederation des Syndicats nationaux (C.NT.U). Among other things, MacEachen revealed that he and his officials had discussed “the general effects of the legislation with some of those who [would] be affected by it ….” This had enabled them, he said, “to take account of some of the concerns expressed by making the provisions flexible enough to take care of unusual situations without affecting the essential standards or excluding any classes of employee.”
At the introduction of the bill, a series of questions was put to the Minister about the coverage of the bill. In answering such questions, the Minister was assisted by a “book” prepared by the Department which explained for his benefit the reasoning behind each clause, as well as by some of the officials themselves in the gallery who could easily transmit messages to him. Practically all of the industries affected by the bill as well as several of the employee groups involved were opposed to at least some provisions of the proposed legislation. Many were enraged and made the most vigorous remonstrance. A summary will be attempted here of both the substance of these protests and of the manner in which they were expressed.
The Railway Association of Canada usually acts as the official spokesman for the industry in matters of common interest. All official written representations to governments, for example, are theoretically to be made by the Association. In practice this is not always true, for even though the Association is dominated by the C.N.R. and C.P.R., those very companies took joint action separate from the Association on several occasions to protest against the Labor Code.
The Railway Association sent a twenty-page brief from its office in Montreal to the Minister of Labor, the Prime Minister, and all other members of the Cabinet on January 11, 1965. From this submission it can be readily seen exactly what the Railways’ objections were.
They felt that the limitation of an eight-hour day and a forty-hour week was wholly inappropriate for certain groups of employees, the running trades, whose operation of the train must be on a continuous basis. They contended that no recognition was given to the very intricate “Dual basis” upon which such employees’ pay was calculated, a method which had been worked out over many years to mutual satisfaction with “mature, powerful unions.” Furthermore, it was argued, the Code would severally interfere in the collective bargaining process, and place an “excessive cost burden on railway operations.” The minimum wage was too high for some kinds of work and the general holidays provision was not only more generous than that in the existing contracts for office personnel, but was unworkable in the running trades. The brief concluded by recommending certain exemptions from the hours of work and holiday’s provision, and a gradual implementation over two years of the minimum wage.
The Motor Transport Industry
The provincial association to which most Canadian trucking firms belonged combined to establish the Canadian Trucking Association with an office in Ottawa to deal with federal matters. Although not consulted by the Labor Department in the preparation of the bill, the chief officials of the Canadian Trucking Associations were conscious of the fact that it was being drafted. John Magee, its Executive Secretary, consequently inquired of the provincial associations and the board of directors whether he should act at once or wait until the bill was introduced. Since it was expected that there would be some latitude in the legislation, the consensus was to wait. Soon after first reading, the officers of the organization had two meetings with top Labor Department officials, one of which was attended by the Minister. Magee returned from the second meeting convinced that nothing would be gained by dealing further with the Department in this way. He decided to telephone every provincial trucking association and to tell their individual firms to make the most clamorous protest – to write, telephone, wire or meet their local member of Parliament and any other M.P’s they knew, as well as the Minister and officials of the Department. The firms responded admirably and both the Minister and M.P’s were deluged with letters and telegrams. The first flood of objections requested the exemption of the trucking industry from the bill, or failing that, at least the opportunity to present its case before the Standing Committee on Industrial Relations. About one week later the order went out again from the Ottawa office to the provincial associations, this time to urge firms to request only that the bill be sent to the Standing Committee.
The objections of the trucking industry were basically two: the Code was discriminatory and unworkable. A 1954 Privy Council decision had ruled that any firm doing any inter-provincial trucking would place all of its operations under federal jurisdiction. The Code, it was claimed, discriminated against such companies whose operations might still be mainly within any one province, because the provincial firms did not impose such high standards. In any case, it would be impossible to apply the hours of work provision because, for reason of cost to the companies and service to their customers, long distance had to be done as quickly as possible. To limit the hours to eight or ten per day, they argued, could not be done.
A different line of attack was used by the Quebec Association. That organization asked Premier Jean Lesage to intervene in the issue on the ground that the Labour Code impinged upon provincial rights. Lesage rejected their invitation with the terse reply that it was based on an incorrect interpretation of the law.
The Shipping Industry
On initially becoming aware of it on first reading, the Ottawa-based General Manager of the Marine Association, Captain P.R. Hurcomb, was the first disposed to accept the bill but to try to influence the regulations which would be issued under it. However, when he notified the firms about the legislation, they demanded that he make an immediate protest. As a result, the Association wrote in this vein to the Minister of Labor on October 23 and a meeting was subsequently held with the Deputy Minister and other officials. Hurcomb reported a lack of progress to the firms on November 3 and thought it might be helpful “if some of the members were to send telegrams to the Minister recommending that the bill be referred to a committee of the House so that representations could be made by those concerned.
Nine of the fifty-four clauses of the Act permit regulations to be made under them. As a simple example, clause 3(3) states: “This Act does not apply to or in respect of employees who are members of such professions as may be designed by the regulations ……” Three of the nine clauses providing for regulations are, however, much wider in scope. Each of these three clauses lists certain subjects (twenty-five in total) on which regulations may be made but the Governor in Council could, in addition, make regulations “for carrying out the purposes and provisions” of a whole part of the Act or, in one case, of the whole Act.
An Overview of the Canada Labour Code
In the federal jurisdiction, amendments to the Canada Labour Code, Part II, which deals with occupational health and safety matters in the federal jurisdiction, were introduced with Bill C-97 in April 1997. The proposed amendments were the first review of the occupational health and safety divisions in Part II of the Code since 1987.
The Bill C-97 amendments create an enhanced role for the internal responsibility system. Joint health and safety committees have additional authority and responsibility to develop and participate in the development of policies and programs, workplace inspections and the assessment of the need for personal protective equipment.
A re-introduction of Bill C-97, if that occurred, resulted in workers having an obligation to raise safety concerns with their supervisors first, and then only alter the supervisor has had an opportunity to address the issue would the worker be entitled to complain to both his or her employer and the committee. If the safety issue continued to be unresolved, it could then be referred to a government safety, officer.
The Ontario Hydro Nuclear Facilities Exclusion from Part II of the regulations, came into force April 1, 1998. This regulation provides that, for the purposes of employment on or in connection with a nuclear facility, Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, applies. Employment in connection with a nuclear facility is excluded from the application of Part II of the Canada Labour Code.
British Columbia is the only jurisdiction with one statute that includes both workers’ compensation and occupational health and safety issues. In November 1997, B.C.’s Royal Commission on Workers’ Compensation issued an interim report in which it recommended that a new legislative framework separate occupational health and safety law from workers compensation. The resulting Workers Compensation (Occupational Health and Safety) Amendment Act, Bill 14, was assented to July 30, 1998.
The Occupational Health and Safety Regulation effective April 15, 1998, replaced the Industrial Health and Safety Regulations and related workers’ compensation regulations that applied to most workplaces in B.C. The regulation represents the first comprehensive update of workplace environments, technology and work practices in 20 years.
In Manitoba, the Workplace Safety and Health Act was amended to increase fines and penalties under Bill 32, effective June 27, 1997. Fines for first contraventions of the act may be imposed up to $150,000, per conviction, with additional fines of up to $25,000 each day if the contravention continues. For second or subsequent convictions, the maximum is $300,000, plus $50,000 each day if the contravention continues. Further, Bill 32 gave a very creative sentencing authority to the courts if a supervisor was convicted of permitting a worker to work in hazardous conditions. The court may direct that the supervisor shall not work in a supervisory capacity for a period of up to six months.
An amendment to the Workplace Safety Regulation 108/88 R became effective on January 15, 1999, which adds a definition of a “powered lift truck”. The amendment specifically prohibits employers from allowing workers to operate powered lift trucks unless the employer has issued a certificate to the worker. The amendment establishes a duty on all employers to establish an evaluation system and to ensure the worker maintains competency in the operation of the truck. The employer must also keep records of the training the worker received.
Bill 99, the Worker’s Compensation Reform Act became law on January 1, 1998. A new Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) was created. The new Workplace Safety and Insurance Act reflects a shift to a new workplace insurance plan that makes employers more self-reliant. The goal of the new act is to help the financially strained system by decreasing workers’ compensation costs by having companies be more responsible for preventing and reducing workplace injuries, and for expediting early and safe return to work.
In June of 1998, Bill 444, The Tobacco Act, was assented. This act, among other things, prohibits smoking in certain enclosed spaces, such as various workplaces, with the exception of those situated in a dwelling. However, closed smoking rooms may be permitted in many of the workplaces where they are equipped with the appropriate systems. Violations of this act may result in fines. Amendments have been made to Quebec’s Safety Code for the Construction Industry. Regulation O.C. 1413-98, which became effective November 26, 1998, contains compliance standards for scaffold shoring; requirements that both an up-to-date mobile crane and tower crane log book be kept; compliance standards for digger derricks manufactured after January 1, 1987, and prohibitions on the use of digger derricks in general; new procedures which allow a liquefied gas to be used to freeze a water pipe; new requirements prohibiting roof or floor level openings at work sites unless certain conditions are met; new designated danger zones where hazard signs must be located; new guardrail specifications; conditions for the use of loaders and earth-moving machinery; procedures for working with compressed gas cylinders and piping through which compressed gas circulates; and, new compliance standards and safety procedures for users of electric or gas welding and cutting equipment.
The evolution of Canada Labor Code has been discussed in the previous sections at length and from these discussions, it becomes clear that overtime many new amendments have been introduced which facilitate the workers for better work environment and provide better security and reduce risks at work. The part II of the Canada Labor Code is a clear example of such amendments.
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