ILO Finds Harper Tories Guilty of Breaking International Law (Again)
October 31, 2013
Toronto, ON - The International Labour Organization (ILO) Committee on Freedom of Association has found the Canadian Conservative Government guilty of contravening ILO conventions on Freedom of Association, the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining in its Bill C-33, the so-called Protecting Air Services Act of March, 2012. This Act took away the right to strike from both the Machinists Union (IAM) and Pilots Union (ACPA) at Air Canada.
The ILO Committee accepted the IAM complaint that the legislation was biased, unbalanced and punitive towards the workers involved, violating workers collective bargaining rights and freedom of association. It explicitly rejected the Harper Governments claims that the law was required by economic necessity and the need to protect an essential service and urges the Government, in the future, to give priority to collective bargaining.
Bill C-33 made it illegal for members of the IAM and ACPA to exercise their right to strike under the Canada Labour Code and imposed final offer arbitration based on criteria clearly favouring the employer. Union members and officers faced exceptional harsh penalties for any failure to actively comply with the legislation.
IAM Canadian General Vice-President Dave Ritchie hailed the Report: We call on the Government of Canada to honor the right of freedom of association and collective bargaining for Air Canadas workers who have been impacted by Bill C-33, the draconian law that trampled on their rights. Ritchie added, rather than serving as a beacon of light in upholding international labor rights, this Canadian government appears to be in the dark.
In agreeing with the IAM, the Committee requested that the Canadian Government, make every effort in the future to avoid having recourse to back-to-work legislation
and to limit its interventions to ensuring the observance of a minimum service, consistent with the principles of freedom of association. The Committee also singled out the Acts restraint on the arbitrator to render a decision, as well as penalties for the IAM and its representatives for violating the Protecting Air Services Act.
The ILO Report can be found at: http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_norm/---relconf/documents/meetingdocument/wcms_228181.pdf
The ILO decision follows a similar ruling with respect to the Harper Governments 2011 legislation affecting bargaining between the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) and Canada Post.
The IAM is challenging the constitutionality of Bill C-33 in the Ontario Court of Justice.
The ILO is a tripartite (business/labour/government) body of the United Nations. Its Constitution recognizes the principle of Freedom of Association. Its Convention 87 (ratified by Canada) protects the Right to Strike. Its Convention 98 (not yet ratified by, but still binding on, Canada) protects the Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively).
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the largest union at Air Canada, represents 8,000 maintenance mechanics, auto mechanics, millwrights, electricians, inspectors, technical writers, planners, instructors, baggage and cargo handlers, cabin groomers, baggage and cargo agents, and clerical workers at Air Canada bases across the country.
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