Canada’s unions welcome legislation on workplace harassment and violence

Canada’s unions say they welcome legislation being proposed to address harassment and violence in federally-regulated workplaces, and look forward to working with the government to address outstanding issues and ensure effective implementation.

The proposed legislation was announced today by Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, and would amend both the Canada Labour Code and the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act.

“Workplace violence and harassment has reached epidemic proportions and is having very real consequences for the day-to-day lives and mental health of workers across the country,” said CLC President Hassan Yussuff. “We are pleased to see the government addressing some of the gaps and inconsistencies in current legislation meant to address this issue.”

Unions have long lobbied the federal government for comprehensive workplace violence legislation requiring employers to develop policies and programs to help prevent workplace violence and harassment, as well as take precautions to protect workers from domestic violence in the workplace.

“The legislation announced today is an important first step, but questions remain about the effective practical protections that will be available to workers, especially the most vulnerable,” said Yussuff.

Yussuff said he would be seeking clarification around issues including:

  • Why the legislation does not contain a clear definition of harassment and violence. Unions are concerned that this can’t be addressed through a regulatory process. The Ontario government’s legislation, for example, contains a clear definition.
  • Whether the legislation will be backed up with adequate staffing and training resources. We need to ensure that Labour Inspectors will receive the specialized training necessary to enforce the legislation.
  • Whether union members will have the right to union representation throughout any complaint process.
  • Whether workers will have the right to access information pertinent to their complaint.
  • How this legislation will interact with provisions in collective agreements, such as the right to third party arbitration.
  • How this legislation impacts the role of the Canadian Human Rights Commission in addressing complaints.

“We are pleased that the labour minister has committed to a stakeholders’ working group to develop regulations and guidance documents and hope that many outstanding issues can be addressed there,” said Yussuff.