ILO Rejects Canada Law Barring Right to Strike

In response to a complaint filed by the IAM, the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Committee on Freedom of Association found that the Conservative Canadian Government violated international labor rights when it passed the so-called Protecting Air Services Act (Bill C-33), a measure that made it illegal for members of the IAM and the Pilots Union at Air Canada to exercise their right to strike under the Canada Labour Code. The bill also imposed “final offer” arbitration on both unions, based on criteria clearly favoring Air Canada.  

IAM Canadian General Vice President Dave Ritchie hailed the report. “We call on the Government of Canada to honor the right of freedom of association and collective bargaining for Air Canada’s workers who have been impacted by Bill C-33, the draconian law that trampled on their rights,” said Ritchie. “Rather than serving as a beacon of light in upholding international labor rights, this Canadian government appears to be in the dark.”

In agreeing with the IAM, the ILO called on the Canadian Government to “make every effort in the future to avoid having recourse to back-to-work legislation… and to limit its interventions to ensuring the observance of a minimum service, consistent with the principles of freedom of association.” The Committee also singled out the Act’s restraint on the arbitrator to render a decision, as well as penalties for the IAM and its representatives for violating the Protecting Air Services Act.

The ILO is an agency of the United Nations and its Committee on Freedom of Association is made up of employer, union and government representatives. The committee’s report reviewed the IAM’s complaint and found that Bill C-33 was biased, unbalanced and punitive towards the workers involved, violating workers’ collective bargaining rights and freedom of association.  It explicitly rejected the Harper Government’s claims that the law was required by economic necessity and the need to protect an essential service and “urges the Government, in the future, to give priority to collective bargaining.”

The ILO report can be found here.