UN body slams Campbell government for violating basic standards, protections for workers

In a high profile condemnation, a United Nations body charged with upholding labour standards has concluded that six laws enacted by the Campbell Liberals — including Bill 29 that shredded health care workers’ contracts — violate basic rights and protections for working people, and run afoul of international covenants to which Canada is signatory.

That UN body — the International Labour Organization (ILO) — says the BC government should repeal or rewrite legislation rammed through last year, ripping up legal contracts, forcing an end to legal job action and imposing settlements.

B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair said the ILO ruling is unprecedented. “It sends a clear warning to both the provincial and federal governments,” he said. “Members of the international community are aware of what’s going on here, and the ILO clearly expects to see changes that restore respect for workers’ rights.”

The ILO found that the B.C. government violated the United Nations Convention on freedom of association when it enacted Bills 2, 15, 18, 27, 28 and 29 which impacted more than 150,000 health, social service and education workers. All the bills were found to violate international labour standards that are respected in democracies worldwide.

“Now, because of the Campbell Liberals, Canada’s reputation has been severely tarnished. We’re an embarrassment in the eyes of the world,” Sinclair said. Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE) spokesperson Chris Allnutt says the ILO has sent a powerful message to the Campbell government, which will be a real morale booster for the thousands of front-line health care workers who’ve had their contracts shredded and their livelihoods put at risk by the Campbell Liberals.

The ruling couldn’t have come at a better time, Allnutt says. “With our legal challenge to Bill 29 set to start in B.C. Supreme Court on April 14, this decision will be very helpful as we press to have this odious law struck down as unconstitutional,” he says.

The ILO is the second United Nations body to condemn the B.C. Liberal government in the last month.  In a recent review of the state of women’s equality in Canada, the UN Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women set a precedent when it singled out B.C. for particular criticism because of policies and programs that “have a disproportionately negative impact on women.”

Click here for an electronic copy of the ILO decision

Click here for the BC Fed Backgrounder on the ILO ruling

Click here for the BC Fed Backgrounder on the ILO