UN agency rebukes Canada for violating labour standards

Ottawa (23 May 2006) - The International Labour Organization has blasted the government of Canada in extraordinarily frank language for failing to uphold international labour standards that it is obligated to enforce.

Ottawa has also been rebuked for not using its influence to bring offending Canadian provinces into compliance with the United Nations labour standards.

Canada now ranks as the fifth worst global offender of the UN agency's Freedom of Association principles, ranking just behind Argentina, Columbia, Peru and Greece.

A series of complaints have been filed in recent years by the 340,000-member National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) ... and upheld by the ILO ... against Canadian provincial governments, notably British Columbia, Ontario and Newfoundland.

(A joint 2005 study by NUPGE and the UFCW Canada documented 170 pieces of legislation ... at all government levels in Canada ... that have denied or undermined basic labour rights since 1982.)

Repeated violations

As a result, the ILO has repeatedly called on Canada to take action to improve its record and to get tough with offending provinces. However, no meaningful action has been taken by federal officials and NUPGE has been advised by the government that none is contemplated.

A report approved in March by the ILO's Committee on Freedom of Association ... and since adopted by the ILO governing body ... lambastes the Canadian leaders for their dismal record and also for their failure to even respond to ILO inquiries about repeated findings that labour violations are occurring in Canada.

"[W]hen a state decides to become a Member of the Organization, it accepts the fundamental principles embodied in the Constitution and the Declaration of Philadelphia, including the principles of Freedom of Association," the report says.

"The Committee therefore urges once again the government to provide information without further delay ..." it adds.

The latter statement refers to an earlier request for a response by Ottawa to repeated violations of ILO standards by the British Columbia government of Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell.

"The Committee regrettably is bound to remind the Government of Canada that the principles of freedom of association should be implemented throughout its territory," the ILO says.

Renewed appeal

As a result of the report, NUPGE is again calling on the government to meet its ILO obligations. It will be asking the federal minister of labour, Jean-Pierre Blackburn, to initiate concrete measures to comply with ILO standards.

NUPGE president James Clancy notes that one recommendation consistently made by the ILO to federal and provincial governments has been for Canadian officials to engage in "full, frank and meaningful consultations with representative organizations in all instances where workers' rights or freedom of association and collective bargaining are at stake."

"I hope to soon have an opportunity to take up these issues directly with the minister of labour," Clancy adds.

"Canada's poor record does not just relate to our failure to live up to international obligations. We have one of the worst records of the 177 ILO member States for ratifying ILO Conventions. Of the 185 ILO Conventions, Canada has only ratified 30. Only three of the 30 ILO Conventions developed since 1982 have been ratified by Canada. We still have not ratified three of the ILOs eight core Conventions," Clancy notes.

More information:
• NUPGE calls on Canada's new government to restore rights
• NUPGE again asks Harper to sign The Workers' Bill of Rights
• NDP Leader Jack Layton signs The Workers' Bill of Rights
• It's never too late, Mr. Harper
• Gilles Duceppe Signs The Workers' Bill of Rights
• Sign The Workers' Bill or Rights
• Complete Text - The Workers' Bill of Rights - download pdf
• NUPGE asks political leaders to sign pledge respecting workers' rights
• Canada's Human Rights deficit: Freedom of Association
• NUPGE Labour Rights Page
• labour rights.ca - collective bargaining is under attack

Background information on ILO and UN violations by Canadian governments:
• Supreme Court will hear B.C. contract case in early 2006
• UN agency condemns violations by British Columbia
• NUPGE files more complaints against B.C. Liberals
• B.C. Liberals ordering health care unions back to work
• NUPGE seeks ILO investigation of Ontario and B.C.
• NUPGE urges ILO to send special mission to B.C.
• Sweeping ILO ruling slams actions of B.C. Liberals
• NUPGE seeks special investigation of B.C. Liberals
• Unions challenge Bill 29, B.C.'s contract-busting law
• UN body slams Newfoundland and Labrador government
• Report of the ILO Governing Body 293rd Session (Paragraphs 399 to 407) pdf file
• ILO Backgrounder - NUPGE pdf file
• Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams must act on ILO ruling