Taking us down a peg or two
May 1, 2012 by Kerry Turner
THOSE OF YOU WHO FOLLOW HPAC MAGAZINE ON TWITTER (@HPACMAG) may have read the tweets regarding Bill C-38: Winnipeg MP notes “we keep unearthing all these little treasures hidden deep in the bowels of Bill C-38” and “I am loath to have to admit to my children that the irreversible degradation of their planet…” Bill C-38 is the legislation that will allow the federal government to carry out its 2012 budget. What is remarkable is its size. At more than 400 pages, as opposed to the more traditional 75 pages or so, the document (referred to as the Trojan horse by its critics) has generated rather muted opposition and limited media coverage. I reviewed the Bill after reading Pat Martin’s (Winnipeg Centre MP and journeyman carpenter) objections to the repeal of the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act. It is onerous, which explains why response and analysis has been spotty.
The Act in question can be found in Division 23 in the part IV of Bill C-38 (enough said). Lenore Duff, senior director, strategic policy and legislative reform, department of human resources and skills development, explained that the Act, which was enacted in 1935, stipulates that all persons employed by a contractor doing work on a federal government contract for construction, remodelling, repair, or demolition of any work, must be paid at least “fair wages”, defined in the act as “wages as are generally accepted as current for competent workmen in the district in which the work is being performed.”
“I think the primary rationale for eliminating this is that it’s duplicative. There is provincial and territorial labour standards legislation applied to these workers,” said Duff.
Considering that the federal government is among the largest consumers of construction services in Canada, frequently interprovincial projects, the implications are significant. To quote Diane Finley, minister of human resources and skills development: “…what we want is to continue to create jobs. Our government’s priority is economic growth and job creation. For that, employers need to have workers with the necessary skills or their businesses will collapse.”
Cutting wages, encouraging the hiring of temporary foreign workers, and denigrating Canadian skilled tradesmen will hardly encourage young people to become workers with the necessary skills. And that does not bode well for an industry that is already gasping for younger workers.
By the time you read this, the deed may be done with surprisingly little fanfare, if the Speaker did not intervene and efforts to stall the omnibus bill failed.