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Budget bill putting lives at risk: labour groups

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OTTAWA -- Canada's biggest labour organizations are calling on the Harper government to withdraw proposed changes to labour laws contained in its omnibus budget bill.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada says the legislation puts people's lives in danger.

"Bill C-4 is life-threatening," said PSAC vice-president Chris Aylward.

"The bill changes the definition of 'danger' to only include 'imminent' risks," Aylward told a news conference Friday.

'This means that workers will have to be in harm's way before they can establish that their working conditions are dangerous'

"This means that workers will have to be in harm's way before they can establish that their working conditions are dangerous."

The new definition of danger removes the concept of complaining about unsafe work based on its effect on a worker's reproductive system and could prevent workers from claiming they were harmed in the workplace by toxic chemicals or substances, such as asbestos, he said.

The legislation also gives the minister full authority over health and safety officers.

That, says the PSAC, makes it easier for employers to ignore health and safety issues in the workplace.

Once passed, the Budget Implementation Act would also give the government exclusive right to determine essential services and would limit the use of arbitration for resolving disputes.

The government is acting by "stealth," said Canadian Labour Congress president Ken Georgetti.

The amendments are "an attack on the constitutional right to collective bargaining," he said in a statement.

But it's unclear how some of the changes will affect the public service.

Treasury Board President Tony Clement said Thursday details on how the legislation will affect public servants won't come until some time after C-4 becomes law.

Passage of the bill could happen sooner rather than later, after the Conservatives used their House of Commons majority Thursday to limit debate on the legislation.

The entire package is expected to receive a second-reading vote by next week before going to a Commons committee for further scrutiny.

Many of the measures included in C-4 are related to implementing portions of the federal budget, tabled last spring.

But other sections have little, if anything, to do with budget or spending measures.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 26, 2013 A23

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