As a worker in Canada, you have rights. In fact, you have so many rights that it can take a while – and some help – to find out what they are. Far too often, workers in Canada only understand their rights long after their employers have mistreated them and it’s too late to do something about it.
When workers know their rights, they are more capable of protecting themselves and their job security. Knowledge is power and rights-informed workers are less likely to get hurt on the job and more likely to get what is rightfully theirs, including the respect and dignity they deserve.
Workers rights in Canada are entrenched in a collection of national and provincial laws.
Your Rights under Canadian law
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/charter/const_en.html#libertes : Article 2 Section d establishes the freedom to associate as a fundamental Canadian right. In other words, Canada’s highest court has twice ruled that the Charter ensures that workers have the right to join a union and negotiate a collective labour contract with their employers.
Your Rights under provincial law
Employment Standards Act (ESA): sets minimum workplace standards, like the minimum wage. Bosses who ignore the ESA face Ministry of Labour charges, which can include heavy fines and/or jail time.
Occupational Health and Safety Act: protects workers against health and safety hazards on the job.
Ontario Human Rights Code: also known as the “Code”, it makes sure everybody has equal rights and opportunities without discrimination in specific areas such as jobs, housing and services. The Code’s goal is to prevent discrimination and harassment.
Labour Relations Act: details the rights of workers to engage in collective action, like joining a union of their choice, bargaining labour contracts and using work stoppages to improve their living standards.
Workplace Safety and Insurance Act: establishes a workplace insurance system that makes sure injured workers are not left behind and that employers and employees co-operate on accident and disease prevention.
How well do you know your rights? Could you confidently answer these questions?
- Does your boss need a reason to fire you?
- When can you say no to your boss (and still keep your job)?
- If you ask your boss for time off to care for a sick family member and he says no, is there anything you can do about it (besides quiting your job)?
- Can management fire you for being sick?
- Can your boss force you to work on Sunday?
- Can your employer make you pay for your uniform?
- What kind of benefits are you entitled to if you get hurt at work and you can’t do your job anymore?
Workers across Canada face these difficulties every day. Chances are you will too, if you haven’t already. Be ready when that time comes. Get to know your rights by following Ministry of Labour links or feel free to contact UFCW Canada anytime with any questions about your rights as a worker.