Federally regulated workplace

Keeping watch, Picture by Martin Leduc, 2020

Working on a ship in Canada, or in Canadian territorial waters, comes with a unique set of regulations, which are not the same as most other Canadian workplaces.

Typically, you work for an employer who conducts business in a province, that province generally regulates and enforces those regulations, which applies to that workplace. For instance, worker disability programs (worker’s compensation in case of an accident), in the province of British Columbia (BC), is the responsibility of WorkSafeBC, as such, they also set regulations for a worksite. Typically, engineers deal with machinery in their workplaces, if you are “ashore” in BC, these machine and their operation come under another regulatory body called Technical Safety BC.

Having worked at BC Ferries, a local ship operator with considerable workforce and numerous operations onshore and at sea, but only carrying on business in BC, it was a mind boggling complex web of regulations, with an additional component, a Collective Bargaining Contract (CBA) that had to be dealt with.

Typically a worker on a ship is strictly governed by Canadian federal regulations, namely the Canada Labour Code, and the Canada Shipping Act (2001), and the regulations the various acts spawn. Ships, and ports, etc, no matter where in Canada, fall under a federally regulated workplace.

The most common aspect of the Canada Labour Code referred to by seafarers, is Part II – Occupational Health and Safety – questions about it by Transport Canada Examiners are to be expected in your Certification process.

Vancouver Wharves, Picture by Martin Leduc, 2018

The Canada Labour Code (1985) has three parts:

Part I - Industrial Relations
Part II - Occupational Health and Safety
Part III - Employment Standards

The Canada Labour Code has been undergoing revision and the revised code is about to come into force, winter of 2021 – now. You can read about the details here, which is part of a larger initiative by the federal government.

Alright, alright, I know talking about, or even thinking about reading government regulations makes your eyes glaze over. The purpose of this piece is to introduce the concepts, and/but further research and adaptation to your circumstances is needed.

In practicality, if you have a complaint about your employer, which in COVID times, has probably come up. There are ways to express these concerns without fear of reprisal (in a perfect world). Of course, if you are in a Union, under a collective bargaining contract, then there are different protocols in place, but rarely do they override the law, or the code.

What kind of complaint to the Labour Relations Board can be filed.

Part III of the Canada Labour Code (the Code) establishes and protects the rights of workers in federally regulated industries and workplaces to fair and equitable conditions of employment. The provisions of the Code set basic employment conditions in federally regulated workplaces. They also offer a way for employees to recover unpaid wages and ensure other labour standards protections are upheld in their workplace.

As a federally regulated employee, you can file 4 types of labour standards complaints with the Labour Program:

- Monetary complaints:
    Monetary complaints for unpaid wages or other amounts owed
- Non-monetary complaints
- Unjust dismissal complaints, and
- Genetic testing complaints

The Canadian federal government has a guide for the process of filing a Labour Program Complaint.

Credit – from interwebs

I have never had the misfortune to be involved in such a complaint or utilized this system for redress, but you may face reprisal; this behavior is often related to the original observation / misgiving about the employer.

Here are your rights :

Rights of federally regulated employees related to protection from reprisals

As a federally regulated employee, you are entitled to a recourse mechanism when your employer has retaliated against you for exercising your rights under Part III of the Canada Labour Code (the Code).

The recourse covers several forms of reprisal, including:

- suspensions
- layoffs
- demotions
- financial or other penalties
- refusals to provide training or a promotion, and
- disciplinary actions or threats to take any such actions because - you:
    - are pregnant
    - take a leave covered by labour standards (for example, sick leave)
    - are subject to garnishment proceedings
    - have filed a labour standards complaint
    - have testified or are about to testify in a proceeding taken or an inquiry held under the labour standards provisions of the Code
    - inform or assist the Minister or an inspector, or
    - have exercised or tried to exercise your right under the Code. This includes for example, your right to request flexible work arrangements

You may make a complaint in writing to the Canada Industrial Relations Board if you believe that your employer has taken reprisal measures against you.

This part of the Federal Government website explain how to file a reprisal complaint.

Additional information about the changes to the CLC, and in a bit more depth here.

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