“Bill C-33 is not simply bad labour policy as the Air Canada walkout has demonstrated. It is also an affront to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Canada’s obligations under international law.”
Ottawa (27 March 2012) – The walkout of several Air Canada mechanics and ground crew at major airports across the country last Thursday and Friday was a clear expression of the frustration they feel at being denied their basic human right to bargain collectively and take job action, according to the Canadian Foundation for Labour Rights (CFLR).
The walkout was sparked when three baggage handlers were suspended for 72 hours for heckling the federal Minister of Labour, Lisa Raitt, as she walked through Toronto's Pearson International Airport last Thursday night.
Raitt is the architect of the Harper government’s Bill C-33, which was passed earlier this month. The legislation ended collective bargaining between Air Canada and its 8,200 technical, maintenance and operational support employees represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) and the airline’s 3,000 pilots represented by the Air Canada Pilots Association (ACPA). It sent both disputes to a bias arbitration process in favour of the employer and prevented both unions from taking strike action.
“Bill C-33 is simply a bad labour law, and like all bad labour laws, it creates bad labour relations,” noted CFLR Board member and Ottawa-based human rights lawyer, Paul Champ. “Legislating an end to collective bargaining and possible strike action instead of letting the process unfold creates an unstable work environment and does not resolve issues that can only be solved through negotiation.”
The dispute escalated Thursday evening and Friday morning when other baggage handlers and ground crew at Montreal, Quebec City and Vancouver airports walked out in support of their Toronto colleagues. They returned to work later Friday when Air Canada was granted an injunction by the Canadian Labour Relations Board (CLRB) ordering an end to the dispute. Many flights across the country were cancelled or delayed by Air Canada as a result of the dispute.
“We should not be surprised that these frustrated and upset airport workers resorted to such action,” added James Clancy, CFLR Board member and President of the 340,000-member National Union of Public and General Employees. “They felt they had no option but to walk off the job after being targeted by Bill C-33, a statute that stripped away their fundamental human right to bargain collectively and take strike action.”
“Bill C-33 is not simply bad labour policy as the Air Canada walkout has demonstrated. It is also an affront to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Canada’s obligations under international law. The right to collective bargaining is an important human right that is guaranteed by the Charter and protected by international Conventions that our governments are obliged to respect and adhere to.”
“Labour rights are human rights. Yet when it comes to workers, the Harper government has repeatedly proven it has no respect for their human rights. Our Prime Minister cannot pick and choose among human rights based on ideology. It is the role of a democratic government in a civil society to defend all human rights.”
The Canadian Foundation for Labour Rights (CFLR) is a national voice devoted to promoting labour rights as an important means to strengthening democracy, equality and economic justice here in Canada and internationally.