Canada’s unions are celebrating an announcement by Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, that Canada will finally ratify the International Labour Organization’s Convention 98.
The minister confirmed the news ahead of participating in an international solidarity event at the Canadian Labour Congress Convention in Toronto.
“Our government understands that organized labour is key to healthy labour relations that benefit people in workplaces all across our country,” said Minister Hajdu. “We are committed to ratifying Convention 98 and sending a clear message to the world about the right of workers to organize in Canada.”
“This is a long overdue and important step forward for Canadian labour relations,” said CLC President Hassan Yussuff.
The convention is the only one Canada has yet to ratify out of eight considered by ILO to be the minimum “enabling rights” people need to defend and improve their rights and conditions at work, and to work in freedom and dignity.
The Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949, protects all workers from anti-union discrimination, including being forced to give up union membership in order to get a job, or job termination for participating in union activities.
Canada’s unions have been working for ratification for decades, but since 1949 and until now, successive Canadian governments have refused. The decision will make Canada the 165th country to ratify. The United States, Mexico, and 20 other countries have yet to ratify.
“Internationally, this ratification means Canada can more effectively insist that trade partners like the United States and Mexico must respect and enforce labour rights,” said Yussuff. “This is key as we face the prospect of the renegotiation of NAFTA.”
At home, Yussuff said, ratification will help reinforce recent decisions by the Supreme Court of Canada that protect union rights.
“Those Supreme Court decisions are binding in all of Canada’s courts and tribunals, and now provincial and territorial governments will be expected to conform under Convention 98 as well, and Canada’s unions will work hard to ensure they do,” said Yussuff.
National Director, CLC Communications