Lisa Raitt Has to Go

Time to Go, Lisa
Ok, lets get the legal stuff on the table off the top. The Canada Labour Code is a dense set of regulations that sets out the rules of conduct for Federally regulated employees and employers. I say dense because it comes in five parts and unless you have studied the damn thing, good luck working your way through it.

In recent days we have seen Canada’s Labour Minister, Lisa Raitt quoting from the Code in her justification for blocking Air Canada from locking out the pilots and for the Machinists from going on strike.

The Labour Code says, Division V 87.4 (1) During a strike or lockout not prohibited by this Part, the employer, the trade union and the employees in the bargaining unit must continue the supply of services, operation of facilities or production of goods to the extent necessary to prevent an immediate and serious danger to the safety or health of the public.

The “immediate and serious danger” the Labour Minister says she was trying to prevent was a disruption of airline service during what is spring break in some parts of Canada, particularly in Ontario.

She referred the issue to the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) and in doing so, interrupted the initiate any work stoppage until the CIRB is able to rule whether or not, a work stoppage would contravene that part of the regulations.

From my perspective, the only honourable thing the members of the CIRB could have done then, was to submit their resignations enmasse. I worked within the Labour community for over 30 years and I have had my share of arguments with decisions taken by Ministers of Labour Federal and Provincial, but I have never in my life, seen such total disregard for process.

The stall tactic used by Raitt allowed her the time to get back to work legislation into the house. Bill C-33 was rammed through after a late-night session in the House of Commons. It was passed at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday morning with MP’s voting 155 in favour to 124 against.

The bill which now just needs the approval of the Conservative dominated Senate will force the parties to binding arbitration. The arbitrator will be picked by the government. Workers should not hold out much hope for a fair settlement.

We have come a very long way from the time when Brice Mackasey is reported to have advised a senior civil servant that he should think of the position as the Minister for Labour since there are plenty of other departments to look out the other interests.

Raitt should know better but, she is has been a controversial figure in much of her working life, unafraid to support positions unpopular to all but hard line Conservatives.

The Harper Government is trying to send Labour a strong message through Raitt. She has shown in her response to disputes at Canada Post and Air Canada the when it comes to Labour Relations, they will stand up for business every time no matter what laws get trampled in the process.

Organized labour in Canada has a choice. They can stand by and watch workers get steam rolled by Harper or, they can get up off their collective asses and take this government on. It has been a long time since a Canadian Labour Leader went to jail for standing up for what was right. Perhaps it is time a few of them put their jobs on the line.