GSU submits brief on new hours of work provisions, Part III, Canada Labour Code
On March 31 GSU submitted a brief to Economic and Social Development Canada - Labour Program (ESDC) opposing exemptions the Western Grain Elevators Association (WGEA) was lobbying for in relation to new hours of work provisions that became part of Part III of the Canada Labour Code in Sept. 2019.
WGEA is the lobbying umbrella for the major grain elevator companies in western Canada and has a history of opposing modern labour standards covering hours of work, including the eight-hour day.
The majority of GSU members fall under the Canada Labour Code and work in areas deemed to be essential components of Canada's supply chain and food production sector. As an organization of working people, GSU's brief to ESDC said the union's primary concern is for the well-being of all working people; unionized or not.
GSU's submission followed on the representations made on behalf of the union during a March 13, 2020 consultative session convened by the Labour Program of ESDC. GSU's brief made the following points.
Eight-hour Rest Period
In section 169.1 of the Code, employers are required to
provide eight consecutive hours of rest between work shifts. GSU members (as do their
non-unionized counterparts) regularly fulfill long shifts of 10, 12 or 13.3 hours, not
including overtime work, in highly safety sensitive workplaces.
Anything less than a mandatory break of eight hours between shifts would be
profoundly unsafe. It is GSU's respectful submission that workers have a right to rest
and a life way from work. And these workers also have a right to report to work free from
Advance Notice of Schedule
Section 173.01 of the Code requires employers
provide employees with their work schedule at least 96 hours before the start of the
work shift and that employees have the right to refuse to work shifts due to insufficiency
GSU's brief argued that workers who already contribute to running a highly-integrated
system deserve to be able to plan their lives without being at the beck and call of their
Notice of Shift Change
Section 173.1 of the Code requires employers to provide 24-
hours' notice of any change or addition to an employee's work shift. Once again, GSU
argued that a reasonable balance between employee and employer interests has been
struck and that the notice of shift change requirement would foster a better and more
Right to Refuse Overtime
GSU's brief supported that the right to refuse overtime
specified by section 174.1 of the Code in relation to family responsibilities is a
progressive and long overdue improvement to labour standards that brings the
employment relationship into the 21st century.
GSU went on to urge ESDC to consider that the stresses and strains on families caused
by the current pandemic crisis illustrate the absolute need for the availability of
workplace and family balance options for working people.
GSU opposes the exemptions or modifications to the new sections of the Canada Labour Code being lobbied for by WGEA and other employer organizations.