The practice area of labour relations lawyers is generally understood to include acting for and advising employers, organized labour and individual employees in grievance and arbitration proceedings under both federal and provincial legislation; representation before federal and provincial labour relations boards; negotiation of collective agreements in both the public and private sectors; strategic labour relations and workforce planning including downsizing; interest arbitration proceedings in the public sector; judicial review of labour arbitration and labour relations board decisions.
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There are numerous labor laws in Canada, either in the federal, or provincial or territorial level.
At the federal level, an example of and the prevailing labour law is the Canada Labour Code. The Code regulates specific sectors, such as federally regulated public and private corporations or entities, and the private sector firms and municipalities in the three Canadian territories. Meanwhile, there are also provincial or territorial labour laws covering the sectors which are not covered, or expands the rights granted to employees which are already covered, by the Canada Labour Code.
Labour disputes may arise out of the employer-employee relationship, and whether the federal or provincial/territorial labour laws apply on a specific dispute must be consulted with labour lawyers, to arrive at a good defense or complaint either as an employer or an employee.
Labour lawyers provide extensive information on the regulations set by the laws mentioned below, both for employers and employees alike.
The Canada Labour Code provides for the rights and obligations of employees and employers, respectively.
Generally, provisions of the Code may be split into:
The Canadian Human Rights Act is the federal legislation that proscribes or prohibits discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, disability, and conviction for an offence (Section 3(1)).
The prohibition on discrimination thus applies to employers and service providers against individuals who are either employed in the following sectors, or when they are receiving services from the agencies and offices of the federal and First Nations government, or from federally regulated private companies.
The Employment Equity Act provides that no employers should deny employment to women, Aboriginal peoples (Indian, Inuit or Métis), people with disabilities, and members of visible minorities. The Act also provides that employers should also improve any disadvantageous conditions employment being experienced by the specific groups mentioned above (Section 2). As such, the Act applies to federally regulated organizations and businesses. Such Act is based on the principle of equity, where all persons should be treated equally, but subject to the individuality and differences of persons or employees.
Enforcement of the above-stated laws are under the jurisdiction of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), the federal government agency tasked with social programs and the labour sector. In addition, the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) is the quasi-judicial agency at the federal and provincial/territorial level which also enforces certain provisions of the Canada Labour Code.
The best labour lawyers represent employers or employees before these agencies, especially with the CIRB, such as during the certification process of trade unions, or when dispute resolution services of CIRB are availed of.
Canadian laws on labour relations are found in Part I of the Canada Labour Code, and the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act. Both statutes have different applicability, hence, it is better to consult with labour lawyers on the distinctions of the two.
Generally, the Code and the Act provides for the right of the employees to collectively bargain from their employers – from the procedures of certifying trade unions to become bargaining agents of a bargaining unit, and to the grounds of possible revocation of said certification. After certification, the Code and the Act provides for the duty of the employer to accede and to collectively bargain with the bargaining agent, among other rights and obligations of both parties to the collective bargaining agreement.
When indifferences or labour disputes arise, either out of the minimum labour standards or alleged violations of the collective bargaining agreement, the Code and the Act provides for remedies of both parties. A strike or lockout may be resorted to by the trade union, subject to certain conditions as provided by the Code or the Act. Conciliations, arbitrations or mediations may also be resorted to as regards the negotiation of the collective bargaining agreement, labour disputes, or other matters as provided in the Code and the Act.
At any stage of these rights, obligations, and procedures, labour lawyers assist clients – either the employer or the trade union – to arrive at solutions best suited for both parties, in relation to the principle of collective bargaining where both parties should bilaterally benefit from it.
The federal, provincial and territorial government has various roles in labour relations. Labour disputes, strikes or lockouts may be prevented through enforcement of minimum labour standards for employees through government regulation, and other proactive measures to maintain industrial peace between employers and employees. When such disruptions occur, the government assist in negotiations through its agencies empowered to conduct alternative dispute resolutions. Also, by enacting or updating labour laws, the government makes these laws relevant which needs to keep up with the current trends of commerce and technology.
Unfair labour practises are explained in Part I of the Canada Labour Code, which may be committed in several ways, and not only be employers, but also persons representing or acting on behalf of employers, and even trade union members or officers.
Section 94(1) of the Code prohibits employers from interfering with the formation of a trade union in the workplace, or from financially contributing to the trade union to prevent its undue influence thereto, with the following exceptions in Section 94(2). On the other hand, Section 95 of the Code lists of various ways where trade union officers or members may commit unfair labour practise.
Complaint on violations of unfair labour practises may be filed by any employee, or trade union members or officers, before the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB), where complainants may be assisted by labour lawyers. Also, complainants may consult with labour lawyers on the strength of such complaints, and other remedies available to them.
In need of assistance with regards to any provision of Canadian labour laws? Consult with the list of the best Lexpert Ranked labour lawyers by heading down to the list below.