Federal labour code changes redefine dangerous work, work refusal process: Canadian Labour Congress

The lives of workers in the federal sector will be placed in danger as a result of amendments that the Conservative government is making to the Canada Labour Code, according to the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).
"These amendments could put workers' lives at risk by redefining dangerous work," says Hassan Yussuff, CLC secretary-treasurer.

Yussuff was commenting on the government's tabling the second part of its Economic Action Plan 2013 Act in the House of Commons on Oct. 22.

“This bill runs to 308 pages and in the fine print we find that it changes the Canada Labour Code definition of what constitutes dangerous work,” he says. “The bill also changes the process by which workers can refuse dangerous work. This is completely unacceptable."

Yussuff says the bill redefines and limits the word "danger" in a way that could lead to increased worker fatalities in Canada. The bill also attacks the right to refuse dangerous work by reducing the role of health and safety officers in the work refusal process.

"The amendments undermine the work and expertise of health and safety officers and place tremendous power in the hands of the minister to make decisions about dangerous work," says Yussuff. "This is bizarre and it will likely lead to reduced enforcement at the expense of workers' health and safety."

The bill also undermines workers' right to know about hazardous materials they may be working with by allowing increased secrecy for chemical suppliers under the veil of trade secrets and confidential business information, Yussuff says.

The second part of the Canadian Labour Code was the result of tripartite negotiations involving government, labour and employer organizations, according to Yussuff:"Now the Conservatives have circumvented that process by burying these changes in a budget bill."

Zachary Pedersen is the editor of COS's sister publication Canadian Safety Reporter (www.safety-reporter.com).