Volume 94, Issue 55

Wednesday, December 6, 2000


CFS stages sit-in over law changes

Unions poised to walk out over new bill

USC to debate changes to VP elections voting

Footballers score $16,000

Campus Briefs

McGuinty trashes Harris via e-mail - 'Pee-mail' campaign erupts over drug testing

Unions poised to walk out over new bill

By Chris Lackner
Gazette Staff

Union leaders in Ontario are ready to unsheathe their swords and call in the cavalry over imminent changes the Tory government hopes to make to provincial labour and employment laws.

Rick Alexander, member co-ordinator for the employee standards campaign of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said the new legislation will allow employers to enforce 60-hour work weeks upon their employees, while the current maximum sits at 48 hours per week.

"The Employment Standards Act is taking us back to the master-servant relationship of the early 1900s," Alexander said.

He said if the amendments to the Employment Standards Act are passed in the provincial legislature, the likelihood of some sort of union job action, such as a work-to-rule situation, is highly probable. "All the unions are pretty damn mad about this."

Wayne Samuelson, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, said the federation has been working with the unions and the media to raise awareness of the issues. "Students need to worry about this. Soon many will be entering the work force and the service sector."

Samuelson said the new labour laws have provisions which could be used to undermine a union's power and its ability to mobilize. "This is a basic change in the 30-year relationship between management and unions."

Gilles Warren, president of the London District Labour Council, said they would fight the proposed changes every step of the way, adding day strikes and work-to-rule campaigns are only some of the options available. It will be up to the independent unions to decide for their own.

Although the Tory government has maintained they will hire more labour inspectors and increase fines for employer misconduct, Warren said he has little faith in the government's sincerity.

Warren called on the Tory government to announce public hearings about the proposed changes, adding public consultation was done at a very minimal level. "The government doesn't listen to people. They have an American right-wing agenda," he added.

Brian Lemire, manager of the employment and labour policy branch for the Ministry of Labour, said the government did extensive consultation with union, employee and business representatives over the summer. "This legislation is all about choice and flexibility," he added.

Lemire said the proposed legislation is intended to modify, clarify and simplify the labour and employment laws of Ontario.

Peter Hardy, spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour, said there is little chance of the government backing down on the proposed changes, despite the threat of union work-to-rule action. He added the government hopes the legislation will be passed before Dec. 21, the final day Queen's Park will be in session.

"We're not forcing 60 hours on anybody," he added. "That statement is ridiculous. We think this is good, honest legislation."

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