Flight attendant Chris Rauenbusch poses for photos. Rauenbusch is concerned about new labour laws that may affect the industry. Calgary, Alberta on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley

Flight attendant Chris Rauenbusch poses for photos. Rauenbusch is concerned about new labour laws that may affect the industry. Calgary, Alberta on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley

Confusion trips up labour reform roll-out, with some stakeholders in the dark

The new rules apply to the 904,000 workers in federally regulated sectors from banking to the civil service

Chris Rauenbusch says he doesn’t know if his employer can summon him to work on a day off after a series of sweeping federal labour reforms went into effect Sunday.

“I don’t know if I am entitled to take a break during a 14-hour shift,” said the 39-year-old flight attendant, who heads WestJet’s union local in Calgary.

His quandary follows a request by employers that Ottawa make some last-minute exemptions or delays to its new rules. The request has left hundreds of thousands of workers and their bosses in sectors from airlines to trucking to telecommunications unclear about whether they are fully covered by the Canada Labour Code overhaul.

As confusion mounted in the lead-up to the changes, Employment Minister Patty Hajdu said certain interim exemptions would apply — at least until further tweaks can be made after the October election — but acknowledged the government was still hammering out who they will ultimately include.

“I can’t actually speak to which employers and which [employee] classes will be subject to these limited exemptions because that is still being worked out with the department right now, and I’m looking forward to their advice,” Hajdu said days before the regulations started to kick in.

“I’m not certain exactly when I’ll have those recommendations.”

READ MORE: Labour reform gives workers more breaks, leaves in federally regulated fields

The new rules, which apply to the 904,000 workers in federally regulated sectors from banking to the civil service, usher in a suite of changes that mandate new personal leaves and longer bereavement and vacation periods, among other things.

Industry representatives say some of the amendments would delay shipments, cancel flights and hurt the country’s economy, while labour groups argue they are simply asking for reasonable working conditions.

“If you’re a trucking operation and your shipment gets cancelled, you can’t just send the truck anyway. If somebody is sick, you may need somebody else to go,” said Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

Rules that fail to take that into account mean “the entire Canadian shipping network and supply chain is put at risk,” according to a May 13 letter to the employment minister from an industry association, Federally Regulated Employers — Transportation and Communications (FETCO), and obtained by The Canadian Press.

An interim exemption will apply to several rules the transport sector says would kneecap its operations, including requirements that employers give staff a 24-hour heads-up on shift changes and four days’ notice for schedules, Employment and Social Development Canada confirmed. A mandated 30-minute break every five hours and an eight-hour rest period between shifts will also exclude some workers.

But which companies and employees will remain unshielded by the new regulations remains uncertain.

“It would be very, very specific classes of employees that, if we were to determine, could be exempt. Because ultimately these changes are about increasing productivity, increasing safety standards and work-life balance,” Hajdu said in a phone interview.

Rauenbusch said the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) recognizes that airline workers occupy a round-the-clock industry and that 24-hours’ notice before a shift change may not always be feasible.

“But just because we happen to be employed in a unique industry doesn’t necessitate simply stripping us of the benefits that the government is trying to afford to workers across the country,” he said.

Kelly countered that wages and longer time-off stretches can compensate for demanding scheduling protocols at airlines, trucking companies and telecoms — where repair and maintenance needs can pop up unpredictably.

“It’s not like employees in these industries are prisoners. They’re often among the most sought-after jobs around because they have other commensurate benefits,” said the CFIB head.

Trucking, however, already faces a serious labour shortage, despite a low barrier to entry. Better benefits could lead to “enhanced recruitment and retention,” the Employment Department said.

Employers expressed frustration with the consultation process after the government agreed to push back implementation by three months from its initial date in June.

“Given that the country is mere days away from Sept. 1, implementation of some of these labour code changes are at great risk of failure. This could have easily been avoided with a proper tripartite process many months ago, or a short delay,” reads an Aug. 28 email from FETCO executive director Derrick Hynes to the Employment Department.

“What we’re waiting for is to hear back from the government around what they feel would be appropriate in terms of granting some temporary relief from some of these changes,” Hynes told The Canadian Press.

The employment minister, “having attended at least one funeral this summer of people that died as a result of a vehicle collision with a transport truck,” stressed health and safety — and reiterated that they go hand in hand with profit and productivity.

“At the end of the day, happy employees, safe employees, well-rested employees are more productive. It leads to safer workplaces and leads to more prosperity as a country overall,” Hajdu said.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

(File photo from The Canadian Press)
Red Deer down to 66 active COVID-19 cases

Red Deer has lowest number of active cases since last November

Orange shirts, shoes, flowers and messages are displayed on the steps outside the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 following a ceremony hosted by the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations in honour of the 215 residential school children whose remains have been discovered buried near the facility in Kamloops, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Alberta city cancels Canada Day fireworks at site of former residential school

City of St. Albert says that the are where the display was planned, is the site of the former Youville Residential School

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Alberta reports 100 new cases of COVID-19

The Central zone sits at 218 active cases

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer drops to 71 active cases of COVID-19

Province adds 127 new cases of the virus

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

A pair of Alberta residents were arrested after police responded to a report of a woman who had allegedly been assaulted and confined against her will on June 20, 2021. (File photo)
Salmon Arm RCMP arrest 2 Albertans suspected in alleged assault, unlawful confinement

Firearms, stolen items seized including NHL hockey cards believed to be worth thousands

A man makes his way past signage to a mass COVID-19 vaccination centre at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians encouraged to see mRNA shots as interchangeable as more 2nd doses open up

Doctors urge people not to hesitate if offered Moderna after getting Pfizer for their first shot

Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance sits in the front row during a news conference in Ottawa on June 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Defence committee rises without report on Vance allegations

Committee had been investigating the government’s handling of complaints against former defence chief

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

Investigators use a bucket to help recover human remains at a home burned in the Camp fire, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Magalia, Calif. Many of the missing in the deadly Northern California wildfire are elderly residents in Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 north of the destroyed town of Paradise. (AP Photo/John Locher)
‘Forever War’ with fire has California battling forests instead

Five of the state’s largest-ever blazes seared California last year, as authorities tackle prevention

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

Most Read