Ottawa labor clamp down may hurt workers, employers

Wed Mar 14, 2012 5:41pm EDT
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By Nicole Mordant

(Reuters) - A Canadian clamp-down preventing labor action in the private sector is unprecedented and not in the best interests of either workers or employers, labor relations experts said on Wednesday.

Canada's House of Commons passed a bill overnight that prevents both a strike and a lockout at Air Canada, the country's biggest airline, and it should become law by the end of the week.

It's the fourth time that the federal government has stepped in to stop a strike or lock-out since it won a majority in Parliament last May.

Three of the interventions were against Air Canada and its unions, after the government argued that a shutdown would hurt the domestic economy. And, unusually, two of those interventions took place even before a strike had started.

"I would go so far as to say there is not another single example where it has been pre-emptive," George Smith, a labor relations expert at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, said of the government's quick fire actions.

Announcing her decisions to act, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt has said it is Ottawa's duty to protect Canadian businesses and families.

But David Doorey, a labor and employment law professor at York University in Toronto, said the new legislation was worrying in that it grants Raitt the right to select an arbitrator without input from the parties, and takes away their right to challenge her choice.

The arbitrator will weigh up competing proposals from the union and company, and choose a contract to impose.   Continued...