Evidence of meeting #87 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was workplace.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Marie Clarke-Walker  Secretary-Treasurer, Canadian Labour Congress
Carl Girouard  National Union Representative, Grievances, Canadian Union of Postal Workers
Andrea Peart  Health and Safety Officer, Public Service Alliance of Canada
Patricia Harewood  Legal Officer, Public Service Alliance of Canada
Tara Peel  National Representative, Canadian Labour Congress
Marie-Hélène Major  Secretary-Treasurer, Airline Division, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
Troy Winters  Senior Officer, Health and Safety, Airline Division, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
Phil Benson  Lobbyist, Youth Committee, Teamsters Canada
Cody Woodcock  President, Youth Committee, Teamsters Canada

February 22nd, 2018 / 10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

I'm going to start with Ms. Major and Mr. Winters.

First, thank you so much to everyone who has taken the time to be here.

I think we would all agree that there certainly is a need for further action within the workplace in order to make it a safe place for everyone, so I think the intentions of this legislation are good. That's what I'm hearing you say, but there are also some concerns that you're bringing to the table, and I want to tap into those a bit.

One of the things I heard you mention was about removing the ability of an employee to go to their health and safety committee with a concern. Can you talk about the repercussions that would have on the workplace and reporting numbers going forward?

10:15 a.m.

Senior Officer, Health and Safety, Airline Division, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

Troy Winters

Under section 127.1, the internal complaint resolution process, the process is to always start with your employer; you always bring a concern to your employer. It's what happens after that we're really the most concerned about. If the person who has made the complaint doesn't feel as though they've received any justification or satisfaction with their complaint, the next step for all other health and safety hazards is to take that complaint to the health and safety committee.

The way the law has been changed expressly forbids and stops that from happening in a way that you don't generally see in legislation. It specifically states that thou shalt not take complaints of violence or harassment to the health and safety committee. By its very nature and definition, we think that limits the number of people who can provide support to a survivor of violence. I'm sure it wasn't the intention of the bill, but it is, as I said earlier, an unintended consequence of that action.

I'll leave it there.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

I think you're right. I think it is an unintended consequence.

Let's say that we're not able to remedy that unintended consequence through amendments. I know we're certainly planning to bring some amendments forward. My hope is that the Liberals themselves will see the necessity of making some amendments to this piece of legislation.

Let's say, for all intents and purposes, that this doesn't actually happen. The fact that this is forbidden in the legislation the way it is written right now—is that enough for us to vote against this piece of legislation?

10:15 a.m.

Senior Officer, Health and Safety, Airline Division, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

Troy Winters

They asked that question before and we were discussing it.

For our members, for the flight attendants who are CUPE members, I would say yes. However, there are such crucial other aspects to the bill. The lack of protection under the Canada Labour Code for staff on Parliament Hill is an oversight that absolutely must be corrected. I can't sit here and tell them that I think they shouldn't have that right and, therefore, that you should vote against this legislation.

To the point of my members, regarding that one change to section 127 of the code, I would say yes to your question, but I cannot sit here and condemn people not to be covered by basic health and safety laws when they should have been covered since day one.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

I appreciate that.

I want to talk a little bit about the definition as well because it has come up too. Regarding the fact that violence and harassment are not defined, can you comment on whether there should be definitions of that within the legislation, or is it okay to just make the definitions part of the regulations?

If those should be defined, do you have ideas on what the definitions should look like?

10:15 a.m.

Senior Officer, Health and Safety, Airline Division, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

Troy Winters

I'm a little more agnostic than my colleagues. Whether it's defined in the regulations or the act, it doesn't matter as much to me; it's the process that matters to me.

We used to have a regulatory development process that was tripartite, where labour, business, and government would sit in a room and hash out what the appropriate words should be in our regulations. This is how part XX came to be. It was a multi-year project. It probably took longer than it needed to, but we ended up with an excellent regulation. That's gone now. Under the previous government, that went away. I guess it was trying to streamline the process, or whatever. Under the current process I would have to say it's probably better to bring it into the act itself.

As for what the definition should be, I was watching the minister speak to the panel the other day and she had some very wise words, saying that we have to be broad in our definitions, that 10 or 15 years ago we wouldn't have considered cyber-bullying. I thought that was an excellent point she raised.

Sometimes the simplest definitions are the best. We define harassment as any vexatious behaviour that an average person ought to have known is wrong. That's a fairly basic definition; maybe it's simple enough. That's just off the top of my head. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my definition book with me, but we do have specific definitions that will be going into our full submission.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Okay.

The last thing I want to talk about here is a competent person. A competent person can be put in place, but the qualifications that this competent person should have are not clearly defined.

Does that concern you at all?

10:20 a.m.

Senior Officer, Health and Safety, Airline Division, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

Troy Winters

Not as much....

The debate around the competent person is not just that they be competent, but also impartial. For some forms of violence, it could be the case that two members of the committee actually make up a competent team. When one of our flight attendants gets assaulted on an airplane, we may not have to go external. Two members of the health and safety committee could bring enough skills to form that competent person team, with two people, an employer and an employee, doing the investigation. That could be sufficient to meet the competent and impartial level.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

I guess what I'm asking is—

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

That's your time. Sorry.

MP Fortier, please.

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Mona Fortier Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I will ask my questions in French. You can use the simultaneous interpretation services, if you want.

We have talked at length about the investigative process and the complaint process. I would now like to talk about the prevention process and the culture change.

Will the measures in Bill C-65 strengthen prevention? Do you have any other suggestions?

You can start, Mrs. Major.

10:20 a.m.

Secretary-Treasurer, Airline Division, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

Marie-Hélène Major

Yes, the bill will be useful for prevention. As we said, there are many positive aspects on prevention, and we support them all.

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Mona Fortier Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Is Bill C-65 good or should we reinforce it? That's my question.

Do you have any suggestions for strengthening the bill we are currently studying to encourage a culture change? We all agree that we need to change the culture. With respect to prevention, is there anything that we could strengthen in the current bill?

10:20 a.m.

Secretary-Treasurer, Airline Division, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

Marie-Hélène Major

That's a more technical question, so I'll let Mr. Winters answer.

10:20 a.m.

Senior Officer, Health and Safety, Airline Division, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

Troy Winters

On the bill itself, the change under the requirements of the employer is an excellent change. Identifying harassment alongside violence in the duties of the employer is an excellent change. The very fact that we're debating this on the parliamentary floor is an excellent change, raises the awareness of this issue, and is, I believe, very beneficial in and of itself.

As for specifics that would improve the bill, honestly that's not something that I've thought too much about. Again, just getting the bill back to where we currently are, with the health and safety committees.... The Canada Labour Code is about prevention. The first line of the code is about how to prevent injuries and diseases related to the occupations they work in, so anything that increases engagement of the committees is good in terms of allowing the committees the ability to work with their stakeholders, whether they're unionized or not, and to get the word out that if there is violence, let's have a talk about that. Getting back to the way things are would be beneficial.

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Mona Fortier Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Woodcock or Mr. Benson, do you have any comments to add in response to my question?

10:25 a.m.

Lobbyist, Youth Committee, Teamsters Canada

Phil Benson

As somebody who has kicked this around a bit, I think there's a big difference between legislation and regulations. Over the past three decades that I've been doing this, more and more people are saying that they'll deal with it in regulations. Fact: what you say here, what your intention is here, and what the minister says in the House mean nothing. This has to be contained in the four corners of the act.

That's why we want a definition of mental health in the section where you talk about definitions. If it is not there in the regulatory process it will not exist.

As for talking about the regulatory process and leaving it to them, there are several issues with that. First of all, we have the consultations: Gazette, part I, and Gazette, part II. We also have bureaucratic agendas. We have a great deal of people who can influence it, and your legislation isn't bound by the one-in, one-out rule. The one-in, one-out rule says that if you want to bring something in, you have to take something out. For example, you can have protective clothes, but we're taking your gloves; by the way, that's not quite a real one, but the gloves part is.... If you want prevention on the job site, if you want to be preventive, I'd urge you to put the definitions in the act so they will be dealt with.

Otherwise, I'm very sad to say that it will not appear in the regulations. Intentions are not worth a pitcher of warm spit in the regulatory world.

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Mona Fortier Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Thank you very much.

Apart from what you are proposing in your presentations on the role of the joint committee, would there be anything else we could do to strengthen the bill before you today? Is there anything else that the committee could study?

10:25 a.m.

Secretary-Treasurer, Airline Division, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

Marie-Hélène Major

The joint committee is what is most important to us.

Our workplace is very complex. It covers the entire world: hotels, planes, transport. It is mostly the youngest employees who are the most vulnerable in all those contexts.

It is important that members receive support from the union and that they know that the union is as active as the employer.

It's very complex on the employer side too. It has the contracts and business ties with hotels. Sometimes, people can suffer various types of abuse. Passengers, as customers, must also be protected. There is also a power struggle between the crew members and the pilot who is in command, and sometimes for good reasons, for very good reasons. That said, investigations often end up being outside our area of jurisdiction. If it affects the pilots, another service takes care of it. It can also come from the client or the hotel. At that point, we have no follow-up. The victim we support cannot therefore be assured that the investigative work is done properly.

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you.

MP Trudel, please.

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Thank you very much for your presentations, which were very interesting.

I will speak in French. You can use the simultaneous interpretation service if you need it.

My first question is for Mr. Benson and Mr. Woodcock.

I would first like to thank you for the excellent work you do for the Youth Committee.

I would like to hear more about the amendments you are proposing to the bill, including the amendment to include a definition of “health” in section 122 of the Canada Labour Code. Can you explain the importance of acting quickly and including that definition?

10:25 a.m.

Lobbyist, Youth Committee, Teamsters Canada

Phil Benson

Thank you very much, Madame Trudel, and a big shout-out to Sheri Benson for helping us in a lot of her work.

When we viewed it, there were many different ways to take it. This definition is actually quite soft. In other words, it doesn't put out a lot of details. That's left for regulations and standards. Our position is quite clear, as I stated to the other member, that if the definition is not there, if it is not included in the act, then we'll not be able to address the issue.

You already have what we thought would fit into section 122, that health is “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being”, but any other language that you want to come up with would be great. I guess in the regulatory world, we would also add an amendment to the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, adding the three words “and mental health” to subsection 19.1(1). As well, the Canadian standards association already has a wonderful standard for psychological health and safety in the workplace. We thought that would be a great addition too.

Basically, if we do not have a definition like this in the act, it simply will not be dealt with in regulation or in any other way that we could find. If you listen to brother Woodcock on the tragedy of what has occurred, the stigma of mental health is extremely bad. It's stuck with us. I think on this issue you have to look at the support we had, and not just from politicians. The people who spoke on this included Brian Burke, who lost a son, and Sheldon Kennedy, who was a victim of abuse. We had a seven-part series that had leaders in the community, leaders across the country, and not just in politics. Gaining the support of all of those politicians and also all of those organizations says clearly that this is something that people want to see done.

If we don't have this in the act, it simply will not occur. We urge your support for somebody to bring an amendment or a similar amendment. We'll welcome anything that makes it mandatory.

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

In terms of health, when victims or survivors experience harassment or violence in the workplace, the mental, psychological health takes a hit. I understand why you want to see amendments on that. We will work towards that. Thank you for your explanations.

I would now like to turn to Mrs. Major and Mr. Winters.

Since I am a member of Parliament, I fly regularly. In addition, I want to emphasize the excellent work of your flight attendants. I have needed them on a number of occasions. We are lucky to have them. We have excellent service.

A lot of images came to mind when you talked about flight attendants—they are mostly women. When they are inside the plane, they are often alone with a majority male crew. As you said, their work requires them to travel regularly and they often have to sleep in hotels.

I would like to reiterate the importance of including an amendment so that the health and safety committee can process the complaints, but also receive copies of the reports. We have talked about this a lot in the last couple of meetings. I would like your opinion on that.

10:30 a.m.

Secretary-Treasurer, Airline Division, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

Marie-Hélène Major

Copies of reports are one way for us to know that follow-up is done. It's a way for us to be constantly aware. We do not need to have inside information, just to know that something has happened, that we are doing it and that it is doing the right thing. This reassures all the parties.

The joint committee is very important. I will talk about Air Canada. This company does a lot of the work in silos: there are the customers, and then there's Air Canada's business image to protect. There are different situations, and things do not always need to be handled in the same way, for various reasons. If it's between colleagues, it's almost easier. It may sound ridiculous, but it's easier. It becomes more complex when other people are involved. That's when members need to know that someone who works for the company is there to defend their interests.

As the union, we can work for our members, guide and protect them. However, if we are not aware of what is being done, we cannot reassure them.

We do not need to have all the privileged information. We have our representative on the joint committee. He will not disclose the information that he is not supposed to disclose. However, he can confirm that the complaints are being followed up and that what needs to be done is being done. That's what's important. Knowing that we are receiving the reports reassures us that the information is there and that things are being done.

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you.

MP Fraser, for six minutes, please.