1.8 Labour

Canadians are among the most overworked people in the industrialized world. The Green Party wants to help restore balance in the lives of Canadian workers by increasing paid vacation entitlement at the federal level, and supporting provincial policies mandating shorter working hours.

The Green Party will raise the minimum paid vacation entitlement to three weeks. Many countries with minimum standards of four weeks and longer also have more productive and internationally-competitive economies than Canada’s.

Countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands have much higher labour standards, higher average pay, and far lower rates of unemployment than Canada, resulting in lower social costs to the country as a whole. Scandinavian countries, with the world’s highest labour and social standards, rank near the top in international competitiveness.

Recent studies show that a growing number of Canadians are not taking their full vacation or any vacation at all, and are working more unpaid overtime. This high-stress lifestyle is costing Canada’s already overburdened health care system more than $5 billion a year, according to the National Work-Life Conflict Study produced for Health Canada.

Canada’s current payroll tax system discourages employers from hiring more workers, even when the business needs them. The Harper government’s planned changes to the EI system, at the behest of Canadian businesses, could cause further downward pressure on job creation. It could even create an incentive to lay workers off. It is more cost-effective to hire temporary and short-term workers or get existing workers to work longer hours, including paid overtime, than to hire additional staff. This leads to greater worker and family stress.

In a progressive society, labour and business interests work together. In Canada, the Harper Administration has worked against this spirit of cooperation in cutting funding to the Canadian Labour and Business Centre, Canada’s longest-standing business and labour forum. It has cut funding to Status of Women Canada and passed legislation to remove pay equity from women in the federal civil service, despite the recommendation of a two-year federal review of pay equity in Canada.

The Green Party understands that decades of evidence proves that a society with a strong labour movement is healthier, has less income disparity, and a stronger middle class. Greens believe in the rights of workers to organize and in the free collective bargaining process. Labour rights are human rights. We believe in pay equity for women, in the equal treatment of organized and non-organized workers, and in workers’ right to fair wages, healthy and safe working conditions, and working hours compatible with a good quality of life.

Our jobs strategy is directly linked to the development of a green economy. There are tens of thousands of ‘green collar’ jobs, for example, associated with refitting Canadian homes and businesses for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The Green Party wants Canada to follow the example of countries that treat their workers well and reap the benefits of low unemployment rates, less stress-related illness, and economies that rank among the world’s best in productivity and international competitiveness.

The Green Party is the only federal party to have concluded that the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) is irredeemably flawed. We appreciate the need for workers in certain sectors, but the lack of rigour in assessing areas of labour shortage has allowed the TFWP to skew the labour market and undermine the proper salary by region for work, particularly in the service sector, but also in areas as diverse as helicopter pilots and professionals. At the same time, the program is exploitative of foreign workers, reminiscent of the shame of ‘coolie’ labour brought to build our railways. We need to place a priority on ending the high levels of unemployment among Canada’s youth, while bringing in foreign workers as future Canadians – not as temporary and vulnerable workers.

Green Party MPs will:

  • Establish a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour under the Canada Labour Code;

  • Advocate for changes in the Canada Labour Code that establish a minimum of three weeks paid vacation and a managed reduction in the standard work week to 35 hours;

  • End the Temporary Foreign Worker Program;

  • Create a domestic employment recruitment program to get willing young Canadians to job opportunities, modeled on how we have been bringing foreign workers to Canadian employers;

  • Support federal ‘anti-scab’ legislation;

  • Support changes to the Employment Standards law to provide equal protection to contract and temporary workers;

  • Strengthen non-union workers’ rights and protections to close the widening gap between union and non-union workplaces;

  • Increase federal inspections and establish stronger deterrents to illegal unpaid overtime work to achieve full compliance with Canada Labour Code standards. This will save money by reducing the costs related to the stress and social impacts of this practice;

  • Change federal labour law to include a requirement that a poster outlining workers’ rights be placed in all federally-regulated workplaces as is the case under all provincial labour laws;

  • Re-establish in law the rights to equal pay for work of equal value;

  • Offer tax rebates to companies that provide on-site daycare, healthy food, and facilities for exercise and commuting by bicycle.