Federal Government Introduces the Economic Action Plan No. 2

On October 22, 2013, the Federal government tabled Bill C-4, the Economic Action Plan 2013 Act, No. 2 (Bill C-4), which amends a number of existing statutes. The following are among the most notable changes:

  • The Employment Insurance premium rate is frozen for 2015 and 2016 at 1.88%. The Employment Insurance Act is amended to require that after 2016, the premium for each year will be set by calculating the premium revenue required in order to break even over a seven year period. Bill C-4 also continues the temporary small business premium refund for businesses whose employer premium in 2012 is $15,000 or less.
  • Bill C-4 amends the Canada Labour Code. It limits the definition of “danger” in the occupational health and safety section of the Code to instances where there is a reasonable expectation of “imminent or serious threat to the life or health of a person”. Bill C-4 modifies the investigation process when an employee refuses to work due to an alleged danger in the workplace. The health and safety section of the Code is also amended to remove the powers, duties and functions of health and safety officers, which are instead conferred on the Minister of Labour.
  • Bill C-4 makes a number of significant changes to the Public Service Labour Relations Act, including the following:
    • The definition of an essential service is removed, and instead, the employer has the exclusive right to determine what constitutes an essential service. The employer must notify the bargaining agent of what, if any, positions have been designated as essential.
    • The dispute resolution process removes the right of a single party to choose to arbitrate a resolution to collective bargaining. However, where 80% or more of the bargaining unit is considered necessary for an essential service, the collective bargaining dispute resolution mechanism is limited to arbitration. Employees who work in services that are designated as essential are not entitled to strike.
    • A notice to bargain may currently be given 4 months prior to the end of the collective agreement term. The tabled legislation permits a party to serve a notice to bargain 12 months prior to the end of the collective agreement term.
    • Instead of five factors that must be considered by an arbitrator when tasked with determining whether compensation levels and other terms and conditions are appropriate, Bill C-4 introduces only two primary factors: (1) the necessity of attracting competent persons to, and retaining them in, the public service; and (2) Canada’s fiscal circumstances relative to its stated budgetary policies. These factors maybe taken into account by the arbitrator.
    • Except for grievances concerning discrimination, bargaining unit employees may only present or refer a matter to adjudication with the approval of their bargaining agent.
  • TheCanadian Human Rights Act is amended to prohibit the Commissioner from hearing a complaint concerning discrimination in the public service. All grievances and complaints in the public service must follow the process set out in the Public Service Labour Relations Act.

Bill C-4 received first reading on October 22, 2013 and is currently proceeding through second reading. Bill C-4 can be found here.

For questions relating to the information presented in this article, please contact Chris Leenheer, Partner.