Labour organizations call on Prime Minister Harper to ratify international human rights conventions

November 21, 2008

OTTAWA – Four of Canada’s largest labour organizations are calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to live up to international commitments of the International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions and declarations recognizing workers’ rights.

The call was made today by the presidents of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF), the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada (UFCW Canada) and the Canadian Police Association (CPA). These four organizations representing nearly 800,000 workers hosted an international symposium on human rights this week entitled “Labour rights are human rights”. The symposium ends today.

“Canada played an important role in drafting each of the ILO conventions and declarations. Yet, Canada has ratified only five of the eight ILO core conventions which form the basis of key international labour standards around the globe,” explains NUPGE President James Clancy. “This is an international embarrassment. The rights endorsed so enthusiastically in international forums by Canada have never been fully realized.”

“Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining – two fundamental rights – are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948,” adds CTF President Emily Noble. “The Declaration was one of the UN’s first major achievements, and remains a powerful instrument and symbol worldwide. It is also the subject of the ILO’s most important convention, No. 87 – Freedom of Association & Protection of the Right to Organize, ratified by Canada in 1972, with the unanimous consent of all provinces and territories. This is the convention on which are based all ILO complaints by Canadian unions to restrictive labour laws.”

“Although the federal Parliament has included in the Preamble of the Canada Labour Code reference to Convention No. 87, the reality of our record, federally and provincially, is quite different,” adds Noble. “Teachers and public sector workers in all jurisdictions across Canada have seen their governments interfere in the collective bargaining process with regressive pieces of legislation that go against international law.”

For his part, CPA President Charles Momy explains that many Canadian workers are currently deprived of their basic rights, which leaves them at the mercy of their employers with no ability to negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment. “A prime example would be the fact that members of the RCMP do not have the right to form an association, and, as a result, there are no mechanisms by which members can negotiate a collective agreement or hold managers accountable within the RCMP,” says Momy. “It is therefore not surprising that the force continues to be wrought with scandals and reviews. The RCMP is the only police service in Canada that does not have an independent association for its members,” adds Momy.

“It’s ironic that 60 years after Canada proudly signed the Declaration of Human rights, our governments continue to let massive employers like Wal-Mart stroll into Canada and rob workers of their collective bargaining rights,” says UFCW Canada National President Wayne Hanley. “Prime Minister Stephen Harper needs to demonstrate to the world – and to the shortchanged Wal-Mart workers in Jonquiere and Gatineau – that Canada still believes in basic human rights by ratifying the ILO conventions.”

All four presidents believe that governments across Canada need to reaffirm that all workers have the right to join and form unions without interference by an employer or government and the right to bargain collectively as the means of determining their wages, working conditions and terms of employment. “Labour rights are human rights,” they conclude.

NUPGE is one of Canada's largest labour organizations, representing more than 340,000 members who work in both the public and private sector. CTF is the national voice of close to 200,000 teachers across Canada. CPA is the national voice for 57,000 police personnel across Canada. UFCW Canada is Canada's largest private-sector union with over 250,000 members across the country working in every sector of the food industry, from field to table.

To view the fact sheet, please click on the following link:


Mike Luff
, NUPGE, tel: 613-228-9800
Pierre Collin
, CPA Communications Officer, tel: 613-231-4168, mobile: 613-299-6516
Francine Filion
, CTF Director of Communications, mobile: 613-899-4247