LABOUR LAW SECTOR OVERVIEW
“. . . there is a long tradition in Canada of labour legislation and policy designed for the promotion of the common well-being through the encouragement of free collective bargaining and the constructive settlements of disputes.” So states the preambule to the Canadian Labour Code that regulates the working conditions and labour relations of entities subject to federal control. The Code also covers the protection of employees as regards occupational health and safety.
Generally speaking, work- and job-related issues are covered by provincial legislation. Since 1925, labour relations (linked to the appearance of unions) have been under the jurisdiction of the provinces, which vote on “labour relations laws,” “labour laws,” “industrial relations laws” or “labour organization laws.” Employment law (relations between employees and employers) is also the responsibility of the provinces.
Each of these various acts provides for the creation of a labour relations commission, to which unfair work practices complaints are addressed.
Labour law also governs strike action, which is preceded by a mandatory collective bargaining of conditions of employment between the employer and the accredited union.
Arbitration awards (settlement of grievances regarding the violation, application or interpretation of a collective agreement) and the judicial decisions related to these awards are the major source of labour law.
A specialization in labour and employment law opens the doors to various occupations:
Lawyers specializing in the representation of employees and/or employers: they defend their interests in the framework of a dispute following a breach of contract;
Labour inspectors perform audits of the fair application of laws in effect on behalf of provincial labour departments;
Within a company, legal advisors prevent potential conflicts and help legally resolve disputes. They may also provide counsel when an employee is dismissed.
Interview with Martin H., lawyer specializing in labour law
“I provide comfort when rights have been infringed upon.”