Restrictive Labour Laws

Labour Rights Under Attack

230 Restrictive labour laws

In the past three decades Canadians have seen a serious erosion of a fundamental and universal human right, their right to organize into a union and engage in full and free collective bargaining.  Federal and provincial governments have passed numerous labour laws since 1982 that have restricted, suspended or denied collective bargaining rights for Canadian workers.


Title Jurisdiction Type of Legislation Datesort ascending

An Act to ensure the resumption of work in the construction industry and the settlement of disputes for the renewal of the collective agreements (Bill 142, May)

The legislation outlawed a six-day old strike by 175,000 construction workers. It stipulated that the collective agreements covering all three sectors of the construction industry—residential construction; civil engineering and roads; and institutional, commercial and industrial—last for four years, ending April 30, 2021.  The legislation granted construction workers a wage increase of 1.8 percent pending the finalization of their new contracts.  It also triggered an immediate five-month mediation period to allow unions and construction companies to hammer out a new collective agreement, after which they will be required to enter into arbitration.

Quebec Back to work - dispute sent to arbitration May 2017

Teachers’ Professional Agreement and Classroom Improvement Act (Bill 75, February)

After, the Nova Scotia Teachers' Union rejected three tentative agreements, the government enacted Bill 75, which legislates teachers' salaries in accordance with the guidelines which the government had established for the public service under its Bill 148: a two year wage freeze, followed by a 1% increase in year three, a 1.5% increase at the start of year four and an extra 0.5% increase on the last day of the contract. The Bill also retroactively ended the accrual of long service awards for those members who have them effective July 1, 2015, and these awards will be paid at 2015 wage rates.

Nova Scotia Suspension of bargaining rights February 2017

Labour Relations Amendment Act (Bill 7, November)

Bill 7 eliminated the card check system of allowing automatic union certification when a super-majority - 65 percent - of employees sign union cards. Instead of a card check system, Bill 7 requires a 'secret ballot' vote for all certification applications, even those where 100 percent of employees signed cards. The impact of the legislation gives employers more time and opportunity to intimidate workers and threaten their job security when organizing to form a union.

Manitoba Restrictions on certification November 2016

Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (labour organizations) (Bill C-377, June)

Bill C-377 forces unions to provide an incredibly onerous level of detailed financial disclosure about their work on behalf of their members. It will require all unions and each of their locals to disclose detailed financial information, such as salaries, supplier contracts, loans, accounts receivables, investments, and spending on organizing, collective bargaining, education, lobbying and all political activities. All this information will be made public on a federal government website. Failure to comply would result in a $1,000/day fine for every day not in compliance.

NOTE: in December 2015, the new federal Liberal government took its first step towards repealing a controversial law by waiving the requirement that unions begin January 2016 publicly disclosing their expenditures to the Canada Revenue Agency.

Federal Government Restrictions on scope of bargaining June 2015

Protecting the School Year Act (Bill 103, May)

The legislation is back-to-work legislation to end strikes at three school boards – the Durham District School Board, the Peel District School Board and the Rainbow District School Board.   It prohibits any strikes or lockouts at the three School Boards in respect of Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) central bargaining issues for the duration of the 2014-2015 school year.

With respect to the resolution of the remaining outstanding local issues, Bill 103 establishes a restrictive binding three-person mediation-arbitration process, which will apply separately to each of the three School Boards and their respective local bargaining agents. 

  • The restrictive criteria to be applied by the mediation-arbitration panel established by the Act are as follows:
  • The school board’s ability to pay in light of its fiscal situation.
  • The extent to which services may have to be reduced, in light of the decision or award, if current funding and taxation levels are not increased.
  • The economic situation in Ontario.
  • A comparison of employees’ terms and conditions of employment and the nature of the work performed, with comparable employees in the public and private sectors.
  • The school board's ability to attract and retain qualified employees.

Ontario Back to work - dispute sent to arbitration May 2015

Universities Accountability and Sustainability Act (Bill100, October)

The legislation allows universities that face severe financial difficulties to implement revitalization plans that suspend collective agreements and ban strikes for up to 18 months.

Nova Scotia Suspension of bargaining rights May 2015

Employees' Voting Rights Act (Bill C-525, December)

This Act amends the Canada Labour Code, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, making it tougher to for workers to join a union under federal jurisdiction and easier to decertify one. The Act removes automatic certification when the majority of workers sign union cards. A certification vote can only take place when 40 percent of the workers sign union cards. It also mandates certification votes in all union drives regardless of whether a majority or even a 100 percent of the workers sign union cards. It also mandates a decertification vote when a member of a bargaining unit claims to represent 40 percent of the bargaining unit members wishing to decertify from the union.


Federal Government Restrictions on certification December 2014

An Act to amend the Labour Code with respect to certain employees of farming businesses (Bill 8, October)

This Act effectively denies workers in small agriculture operations the right to unionize and bargain collectively. The legislation singles out agriculture workers in workplaces where there are less than three full-time employees, allowing only for undefined “associations” which merely have the right to “inform” employers of workplace issues.

This law comes on the heels of a decision by Quebec’s Superior Court in 2013 that found sections of the Quebec Labour Code allowing for the exclusion of agriculture workers from the right to organize to be unconstitutional. The former PQ government did not appeal the Court's decision. Shortly after the current Liberal government was elected, it circumvented the Superior Court's decision by introducing Bill 8. The Act is modeled after the Ontario Agricultural Employees’ Protection Act, which was found not to violate Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the controversial Supreme Court of Canada Fraser decision released April 2011.

Quebec Denial of right to join a union October 2014

Health Authorities Act, 2014 (Bill 1, October)

This Act denies 24,000 health care workers the freedom to choose the union they want to represent them.   The legislation limits the number of bargaining units in the health sector to four province-wide units and states that each of the current four unions in the health care sector - the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU), the Nova Scotia Nurses Union (NSNU), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and Unifor - can only represent one the four new bargaining units.  It basically defines which units the members will belong and does not allow run off votes in which members would have an opportunity to vote for the union of their choice.  The Act has the effect of carving out 8,200 NSGEU members into the other three unions.  It does provides for an extremely restricitve 90 day mediation / arbitration process, however the results of that process appear to be predetermined by the legislation. The Act prohibits applications for certification, decertification and displacement of one union for another. Not only will employees have no say in the selection of the union to represent them, they will never be able to change that union.

NOTE: Bill 69, An Act to Amend Chapter 32 of the Acts of 2014, the Health Authorities Act, passed April 1, 2015,  repealed all the anti-democratic measures in Bill 1 and restructures health care labour relations to allow for four Council of Unions (similar to the BC bargaining associations model) whereby each of the health care unions will maintain their membership, while four new health care Councils of Unions will become the certified bargaining agent.  The four Councils of Unions will be:  nurses, health care professionals, health care support and health care administration.



Nova Scotia Restrictions on scope of bargaining October 2014

An Act to Amend the Labour Relations Act, 2014 (Bill 22, June)

This Act reverses the progressive amendments made to the Labour Relations Act in June 2012 (Bill 37) which provided for automatic card-check certification when 65 percent of workers in a workplace sign union carrds.  It amends the certification process back to the pre-2012 amendments, requiring a certification vote regardless of evidence that a clear majority of workers in a workplace signed a union card stating their desire to be represented by a union.

Newfoundland and Labrador Restrictions on certification June 2014