Media Release: Open consultation is the only answer for workers and Canadians

(Calgary) November 1, 2013 – As the Conservative Party of Canada gather for their 2013 Policy Convention, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) is calling on the Conservative government to stop the attack on workers and withdraw changes to federal labour legislation from the Budget Implementation Act that would gut collective bargaining rights and health and safety protections.

Marianne Hladun, Regional Executive Vice-President for the PSAC Prairie Region, and Robyn Benson, PSAC National President, are in town to speak out against this government’s anti-worker agenda and are available for interview on request.

“Over the past two years, this government has systematically slashed Canadian jobs and silenced workers,” said Marianne Hladun, Regional Executive Vice-President for the PSAC Prairie Region. “Back-to-work legislation, tens of thousands of job cuts, and fiercely anti-worker legislation like Bill C-377, C-525, and C-4, prove the Conservatives have no interest in the well-being of hard working Canadians.”

To date, more than 22,300 PSAC members in 59 departments have received notices saying they could lose their jobs, including 2,771 across the prairies. The most recent Budget Implementation Act, Bill C-4, proposes drastic changes to collective bargaining rights, health and safety and human rights protections that will irreparably damage the relationship between the government and its employees.

PSAC was never consulted on the new proposed legislation. Meaningful consultation, no matter what the government of the day, leads to better results for workers and better results for Canadians.

Recently, Saskatchewan passed legislation that created Canada’s first asbestos registry, the result of over a year of consultations between community groups, PSAC, and the provincial government. But while Saskatchewan takes one step forward to protect health and safety, the federal government takes two steps back with changes outlined in Bill C-4.

The proposed legislation changes the definition of danger from “could reasonably be expected to cause injury or illness” to “could reasonably be expected to be an imminent or serious threat to the life or health of a person.” This change impedes the fundamental right to refuse dangerous work.

”With the new wording we cannot refuse unless there is an imminent threat, but there is no way of determining imminent danger with asbestos. Once you have figured out if there is a danger, it is too late,” says Courtney Seier-Todd, Calgary-based spokesperson for the Saskatchewan Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (SADAO), one of the principal organizations involved in the consultation process in Saskatchewan. “We are deeply concerned that the proposed changes to the Canadian Labour Code could increase exposure to asbestos, leading to needless illness and fatalities.”

“The Conservatives are abandoning their responsibility to protect the health and safety of their workers, and it’s totally unacceptable,” says Benson. “There is a better way, and it involves proper consultation. When we sit down and negotiate, it leads to a better result for both our members and the public.”

PSAC is calling for an open and transparent consultation process to develop a new federal public service labour law designed to foster positive labour relations and protect employees’ constitutional right to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

Marianne Hladun, Regional Executive Vice-President for the PSAC Prairie Region, Robyn Benson, PSAC National President, and Courtney Seier-Todd, Calgary-based spokesperson for SADAO, are in Calgary this weekend and available for interviews on request.

For further information, please contact:

Jeffrey Vallis, Communications Officer, 204-990-5717 or