Immediately prior to their summer break, Canada's Senate
voted 35-22 to pass Bill C-377, a private member's bill which
is causing much consternation for trade unions.
This move comes as something of a surprise since it was the
Senate who broke ranks with the federal government back in June
2013 to block passage of the same legislation. For further details
on the legislative history and events in 2013, please see our
earlier bulletin here.
The new legislation passed on June 30, 2015 will require labour
organizations to publicly disclose all payments made to outside
groups or individuals worth $5,000 or more. There will also be
salary disclosure for workers earning more than $100,000.
The controversial new rules are set out in legislation sponsored
by Conservative MP Russ Hiebert and are effected through changes to
the Income Tax Act. The regime will require disclosure of
relevant financial information to the Canada Revenue Agency. These
statements would then be available on a public website. Similar
regimes are already in place in certain other jurisdictions.
The ostensible justification for the new requirements is the
fact that unions are exempt from taxation. Those who support C-377
argue that unions should be treated with the same public disclosure
requirements that charities follow. Some have also claimed that the
move to greater transparency is justifiable since unionized
Canadian workplaces impose mandatory dues on employees whether or
not they are union members, and union dues are tax deductible.
A number of unions have also been vocal about the excessive
compliance costs. Critics of C-377 have also questioned the
bill's impact on privacy rights and its constitutionality.
Indeed, a number of unions and the Canadian Labour Congress have
already spoken out publicly about their intent to challenge the
legal validity of the new regime. Among their complaints, the
specific requirements on disclosing political activity allegedly
infringe on freedoms of association and expression protected under
Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Further
public debate and legal wrangling on the issues appear to be almost
The foregoing provides only an overview and does not
constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any
decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal
advice should be obtained.
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
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