Flight attendant Chris Rauenbusch poses for photos. Rauenbusch is concerned about new labour laws that may affect the industry. Calgary, Alberta on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley

Confusion trips up labour reform roll-out, with some stakeholders in the dark

The new rules apply to the 904,000 workers in federally regulated sectors from banking to the civil service

Chris Rauenbusch says he doesn’t know if his employer can summon him to work on a day off after a series of sweeping federal labour reforms went into effect Sunday.

“I don’t know if I am entitled to take a break during a 14-hour shift,” said the 39-year-old flight attendant, who heads WestJet’s union local in Calgary.

His quandary follows a request by employers that Ottawa make some last-minute exemptions or delays to its new rules. The request has left hundreds of thousands of workers and their bosses in sectors from airlines to trucking to telecommunications unclear about whether they are fully covered by the Canada Labour Code overhaul.

As confusion mounted in the lead-up to the changes, Employment Minister Patty Hajdu said certain interim exemptions would apply — at least until further tweaks can be made after the October election — but acknowledged the government was still hammering out who they will ultimately include.

“I can’t actually speak to which employers and which [employee] classes will be subject to these limited exemptions because that is still being worked out with the department right now, and I’m looking forward to their advice,” Hajdu said days before the regulations started to kick in.

“I’m not certain exactly when I’ll have those recommendations.”

READ MORE: Labour reform gives workers more breaks, leaves in federally regulated fields

The new rules, which apply to the 904,000 workers in federally regulated sectors from banking to the civil service, usher in a suite of changes that mandate new personal leaves and longer bereavement and vacation periods, among other things.

Industry representatives say some of the amendments would delay shipments, cancel flights and hurt the country’s economy, while labour groups argue they are simply asking for reasonable working conditions.

“If you’re a trucking operation and your shipment gets cancelled, you can’t just send the truck anyway. If somebody is sick, you may need somebody else to go,” said Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

Rules that fail to take that into account mean “the entire Canadian shipping network and supply chain is put at risk,” according to a May 13 letter to the employment minister from an industry association, Federally Regulated Employers — Transportation and Communications (FETCO), and obtained by The Canadian Press.

An interim exemption will apply to several rules the transport sector says would kneecap its operations, including requirements that employers give staff a 24-hour heads-up on shift changes and four days’ notice for schedules, Employment and Social Development Canada confirmed. A mandated 30-minute break every five hours and an eight-hour rest period between shifts will also exclude some workers.

But which companies and employees will remain unshielded by the new regulations remains uncertain.

“It would be very, very specific classes of employees that, if we were to determine, could be exempt. Because ultimately these changes are about increasing productivity, increasing safety standards and work-life balance,” Hajdu said in a phone interview.

Rauenbusch said the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) recognizes that airline workers occupy a round-the-clock industry and that 24-hours’ notice before a shift change may not always be feasible.

“But just because we happen to be employed in a unique industry doesn’t necessitate simply stripping us of the benefits that the government is trying to afford to workers across the country,” he said.

Kelly countered that wages and longer time-off stretches can compensate for demanding scheduling protocols at airlines, trucking companies and telecoms — where repair and maintenance needs can pop up unpredictably.

“It’s not like employees in these industries are prisoners. They’re often among the most sought-after jobs around because they have other commensurate benefits,” said the CFIB head.

Trucking, however, already faces a serious labour shortage, despite a low barrier to entry. Better benefits could lead to “enhanced recruitment and retention,” the Employment Department said.

Employers expressed frustration with the consultation process after the government agreed to push back implementation by three months from its initial date in June.

“Given that the country is mere days away from Sept. 1, implementation of some of these labour code changes are at great risk of failure. This could have easily been avoided with a proper tripartite process many months ago, or a short delay,” reads an Aug. 28 email from FETCO executive director Derrick Hynes to the Employment Department.

“What we’re waiting for is to hear back from the government around what they feel would be appropriate in terms of granting some temporary relief from some of these changes,” Hynes told The Canadian Press.

The employment minister, “having attended at least one funeral this summer of people that died as a result of a vehicle collision with a transport truck,” stressed health and safety — and reiterated that they go hand in hand with profit and productivity.

“At the end of the day, happy employees, safe employees, well-rested employees are more productive. It leads to safer workplaces and leads to more prosperity as a country overall,” Hajdu said.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Unintentionally trapped cougar safely released near Williams Lake

Conservation officers tranquilized and transported it a short distance before watching it walk away

Local basketball star Annika Parr selected as alternate for Team BC’s U14 squad

Parr is excited about the possibility of playing in Halifax

Snowfall warning continues for parts of B.C.’s Interior

First significant snowfall of the season prompts Environment Canada warning

Hagensborg Water District ratepayers vote to dissolve district

In a close vote of 68 to 63, ratepayers have chosen to dissolve the water district

Bella Coola residents rely on food bank support

Your volunteers at the food bank work year-round, but are especially busy at Christmas

VIDEO: More air-passenger rights go into effect this weekend

The first set of passenger rights arrived in mid-July in Canada

Swoop airlines adds three destinations in 2020 – Victoria, Kamloops, San Diego

Low-fair subsidiary of WestJet Airlines brings new destinations in April 2020

Aid a priority for idled Vancouver Island loggers, John Horgan says

Steelworkers, Western Forest Products returning to mediation

Navigating ‘fever phobia’: B.C. doctor gives tips on when a sick kid should get to the ER

Any temperature above 38 C is considered a fever, but not all cases warrant a trip to the hospital

Transportation Safety Board finishes work at B.C. plane crash site, investigation continues

Transport Canada provides information bulletin, family of victim releases statement

Trudeau sets 2025 deadline to remove B.C. fish farms

Foes heartened by plan to transition aquaculture found in Fisheries minister mandate letter

Wagon wheels can now be any size! B.C. community scraps 52 obsolete bylaws

They include an old bylaw regulating public morals

Indigenous mother wins $20,000 racial discrimination case against Vancouver police

Vancouver Police Board ordered to pay $20,000 and create Indigenous-sensitivity training

Sentencing for B.C. father who murdered two young daughters starts Monday

The bodies of Aubrey, 4, and Chloe, 6, were found in Oak Bay father’s apartment Dec. 25, 2017

Most Read