Brought To You By Unions

Workplace Safety

History of Health and Safety

The Newfoundland & Labrador Occupational Health & Safety Association was formed in 1956, as the Newfoundland Accident Prevention Association. In the 1960’s exploitation of workers was prominent. On March 17, 1960, five immigrant workers were working on a tunnel at Hogg’s Hollow under the Don River in Toronto when they became trapped inside when a fire broke out. The men were killed. This tragedy led to major reforms in occupational health and safety, beginning with pushing the Ontario government to pass the Industrial Safety Act and was followed by the foundation of the Canada Labour Code (CLC) in 1967 which clearly identifies laws and regulations for the safety of workers in Canada.  Saskatchewan was the first province to introduce an Occupational Health Act. The fight for Occupational Health and Safety regulations and legislation was led by Unions. Unions fought hard to give Canadians three important areas of power: the right to refuse unsafe work, the right to know about hazards in the workplace and the right to participate in health and safety discussions.

OHS Legislation Information


Workers Basic Rights

There are 3 basic rights of workers:

  • Right to Know
  • Right to Participate
  • Right to Refuse Unsafe Work.

Occupational Health and Safety Representative

Each workplace with 1-19 workers is required at minimum to have an OHS representative.  Workplaces with 20- 299 workers are required to have to an OHS Committee. Workplaces with greater than 300 workers are required to have an OHS Policy Committee.

Parental Leave

Maternity leave benefits have only been around since 1971 in Canada. Before that, a new mother had to quit work or return to work quickly if her family depended on her income. The federal government, through the employment insurance program, introduced limited 15 weeks of paid maternity leave in 1971 at 66% of a mother’s previous salary.  It was only a short time later when unions began negotiating longer paid maternity leave with higher levels of benefits for their members that topped up the portion of salary paid by employment insurance benefits. And unions also began negotiating guarantees that women could return to the jobs they held before their maternity leave, paternity leave, and leave for parents who adopted children.

At the beginning of the 1960s just over 30% of women aged 20 to 30 participated in the Canadian labour force. By the end of the 1970s it had doubled to just over 60%, and in 2012 over 70% of young women were participating in the labour force. And today, 70% of mothers with children under five years of age are working.

The labour movement pushed for changes to make maternity leave more accessible, not only in legislation, but also by bargaining better paid maternity leave for its members. And they didn’t stop at just maternity leave. As early as 1979, Quebec’s Common Front, representing government, education and health workers, negotiated 20 weeks of fully paid maternity, 10 weeks leave when parents adopted a child, and five days of paternity leave!  In 1981 after a 42-day strike, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers won postal workers across Canada 17 weeks of paid maternity leave. The concept of longer periods of paid maternity leave that was available through unemployment insurance benefits soon became mainstream and expanded across the country.

Maternity and parental leave has given new parents the economic stability and valuable time they need to care for their children and support their growing families. Maternity, parental, and other family leaves continue to evolve as the family unit changes with our society.

Unions didn’t stop at maternity leave. Today, we advocate for better access to quality and affordable child care for all workers – so families can better balance their work and family lives. Access to childcare and early childhood education provides economic benefits to the country and help boost productivity. Unions continue to lobby for accessible and affordable child care for all!

All Canadians should have access to quality and affordable child care for their children, but currently we are still struggling to find safe child care that we can afford.

It’s time to end Canada’s child care crisis, please visit to pledge your support to help Canadians receive access to safe, affordable and accessible childcare as we are tired of waiting.

Parental Leave:

Employment Insurance

Employment Insurance came to be in 1941 following workers striking in pursuit of a living wage and unemployment support. The Great Depression was a time of incredible economic hardship for most of the western world including Canada. The economic crisis brought tragic rates of unemployment and Government policies. Prime Minister R. B. Bennett failed to provide sufficient relief for the situation. Many had no choice but to avail of relief camps for the unemployed created by the Federal Government. These camps paid single homeless men 20 cents per day, provided clothes, food, and shelter, for 44 hours of public service each week. After some time, and growing frustration with the band-aid solution that failed to provide sufficient working and living conditions, over 1000 men organized as a collective.  They went on strike, and began to make their way from British Columbia to Ottawa, Ontario in an attempt to share their complaints with Prime Minister Bennett. Following this, the “On to Ottawa Trek” by BC workers in 1935, legislation for a national mandatory employment insurance program, through contributions of workers, employers and federal government, was implemented.

The Employment Insurance program and legislation has undergone a great deal of expansion and change since its inception. In its current form it provides benefits and assistance to those who qualify and are out of work or unable to work due to sickness, pregnancy, caring for a family member, and more. The program also provides options for self-employed persons to have access to special benefits when they need them.

Research shows that Employment Insurance is an important economic stabilizer in Canada. It provides greater income security for Canadians. Unions will continue to push for more accessible and beneficial programs for all workers.

Employment Insurance:

40 Hour Work Week

The implementation of the 40-hour work week that has become standard across many industries was hard fought for. It took employees banding together, usually from being fed up with deplorable conditions, child labour and deadly accidents to make it happen.

The movement for shorter work days and weeks began with the formation of unions. It was met with great employer resistance, as trade workers and similar industries marched together for better conditions. It was a major demand of trade unions in most countries. Workers organized to fight for better working conditions, including an end to the insufferable hours.

The Ford Motor Company advanced the idea of a 40-hour workweek in 1914 after founder Henry Ford believed that too many hours were bad for workers’ productivity. As technical progress made an hour of labour more productive, employers had less reason to resist shorter working hours.

During World War I, the eight-hour day and the six-day 48-hour week became standard in American factories. Most European countries also made substantial gains toward achieving the 48-hour week during the 1920s. Many of them signed the international convention, sponsored by the newly formed International Labour Organization, which declared the eight-hour day or 48-hour week to be a standard.

A standard 40-hour week was implemented in the United States when the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 required employers to pay overtime to those working more than the maximum of 40 hours per week. The 40-hour week was also established in Canada in the early 1960s.

Labour Day in Canada falls on the first Monday in September. The holiday originated on January 27, 1872, with workers in Hamilton, Ontario, who organized the “Nine Hour Movement.” At a meeting of the Hamilton Mechanics Institute, members unanimously approved a resolution declaring the nine-hour movement to be a matter of social necessity, to enable working men to improve their education and better meet their duties as fathers and citizens.

On May 15, 1872, wage-earners marched through the city of Hamilton, demanding the nine-hour day. The parade was a great success, and other nine-hour leagues throughout southern Ontario sent delegates to Hamilton to form the Canadian Labour Protective and Mutual Improvement Association, Canada’s first regional labour federation. Every year on May Day, strikes and demonstrations were organized to bring awareness to the issue.

Making gains was difficult in the face of concerted opposition from the combination of employers and government. Governments were not averse to easily granting injunctions against unions or to call out the police to disperse rioters. Union organizers were blacklisted and arrested. Prime Minister John A. Macdonald on June 14, 1872 passed the Trade Union Act that legalized and protected trade unions. Now it was no longer a conspiracy for workers to band together in order to improve their working conditions.

In 1894 the Prime Minister, Sir John Thompson, passed a law making Labour Day a national holiday in Canada. Today, the Canadian Labour Code sets out the requirements an employer must meet with respect to hours of work and overtime in order to achieve “8 hours labour, 8 hours recreation and 8 hours rest”.

40 Hour Work Week:

Workers' Compensation

Each year many workers are injured on the job and unable to work, which leaves citizens with economic issues to face. In 1919 the Association of Workers Compensation Boards of Canada was launched. By 2013, more than 900 workers died because of something that happened to them at work. That’s just what was reported, but we know the real numbers are higher. Hundreds more die from under-reported illnesses and occupational diseases that go unrecognized by unfair government compensation rules or simply aren’t reported because workers can’t afford to take the time off.

As you can tell there is still work to be done to ensure the safety of workers. Unions continuously fight hard to ensure workers have access to benefits to assist during these times of crisis, such as access to workers compensation for workers injured on the job.

Workplace Injuries – What To Do If Injured On The Job?

  1. Call for help, get first aid;
  2. Seek Medical Help. Your health care provider will give you Form 8-10- Health Care Provider’s Report of Injury Form that you should bring to your employer by the next work day or as soon as possible;

  3. Report Injury to Your Supervisor. Employer should provide you with a copy of a Form 6 – Worker’s Report of Injury, which the worker is required to complete;

  4. Report to WorkplaceNL. Submit Worker’s Report of Injury (Form 6) within 3 months of injury or claim may not be accepted; and

  5. Stay Connected. Work with your employer and health care provider on your early and safe return-to-work plan.

Injured Workers Requirements

  1. Contact your employer as soon as possible after the injury occurs and maintain effective communication throughout the period of recovery or impairment.

  2. Assist your employer as may be required to identify suitable and available employment.

  3. Accept suitable employment when identified.

  4. Give WorkplaceNL requested information concerning the return-to-work plan, including information about any disputes or disagreements which arise during the early and safe return to-work process.

Did You Know?

  • If you are an injured worker, visit WorkplaceNL
  • Recently, with help from unions, workers compensation wage income replacement rates in Newfoundland and Labrador increased from 80% to 85%, aligning with the other provinces and territories in Canada which have rates between 85% to 90%.

Workers Compensation: