Be Careful Taking Cost-Saving Measures in Union Workplace

March 24, 2009 - by: Karen Sargeant 0 COMMENTS

By Karen Sargeant

In the last several months, we have posted several blog entries detailing how employers can reduce employment costs and/or increase workforce flexibility in these tough economic times. We have talked about furloughs, work-sharing programs, changing employment contracts, adjusting the size of the workforce and reducing employees’ hours of work.

But all of these discussions have been in the context of nonunion workplaces. What about a unionized workplace – do employers have the same flexibility to reduce hours, shorten the workweek, impose work-sharing programs or set up other cost-saving measures? The answer depends.

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Broad Drug Testing Policies Approved by Arbitrator

March 17, 2009 - by: Brian Smeenk 0 COMMENTS

By Brian P. Smeenk

Drug and alcohol testing has long been a sensitive subject in Canada, especially in safety-sensitive workplaces. A recent 128-page arbitration decision by a leading Canadian arbitrator may have put to rest many of the remaining questions about what kinds of policies will be enforceable in Canada and what they should contain.

As we have reported in earlier articles in Northern Exposure, there are significant differences between Canadian and American law in this area. As one arbitrator has noted, Canadians tend to have a “visceral negative reaction when the state, employers, or anyone in authority dictates to them what they can or cannot do, especially on their personal time …” There has been a reluctance to allow intrusions on individual freedoms and rights unless the necessity is clearly demonstrated.

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Paying Foreign and Canadian Crews Comparable Wages Not Good Enough

March 10, 2009 - by: Northern Exposure 0 COMMENTS

By Thora Sigurdson, Nicola Sutton, and Derek Knoechel

SELI Canada Inc. entered into a joint venture with SNC Lavalin and successfully bid on a contract to build a large rapid transit project in the Vancouver area. The so-called “Canada Line” has been a “hot button” project, causing heated debate about the cost to taxpayers, the disruption to businesses and traffic, and the use of foreign workers.

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Can Employers Use Biometrics in Their Canadian Workplaces?

March 03, 2009 - by: Northern Exposure 0 COMMENTS

by Lisa Chamandy

Employers in Canada are beginning to use biometric scans to replace traditional lock-and-key or card-swipe systems. Sensors record fingerprint-like information, and computers transform the data into a mathematical formula, usually comprised of 0s and 1s.

The system then deletes the image, keeping only a template corresponding to 2 percent of the fingertip. It’s the formula, not the fingerprint-like image, that’s stored in the system’s computers.

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Minimizing Your Reorganization Cost in Canada

February 24, 2009 - by: Sara Parchello 1 COMMENTS

by Sara Parchello

Many employers are trying to reorganize operations in order to survive this economic downturn. As Canadian employers know, a substantial change in an employee’s job functions can lead an employee to make a claim for constructive dismissal. This can result in significant liabilities when you can least afford it. How far can a Canadian employer go to reorganize the workforce without triggering a claim for constructive dismissal?

What is constructive dismissal?
To recap, and as most readers are aware, a constructive dismissal results in a claim much like a wrongful dismissal claim:  An employee argues that he or she was terminated, without proper reasons, from the job he or she had accepted. In constructive dismissal cases, Canadian courts have sought to protect employees and provide a remedy if an employer attempts to unilaterally change the employment relationship.

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Termination Pay Considerations for Commissioned Employees in Canada

February 17, 2009 - by: Northern Exposure 2 COMMENTS

by Katie Clayton and Jennifer Shepherd

Figuring out an employee’s entitlements upon termination can be tricky in Canada. It can be an even trickier exercise for commissioned employees. For example, are employers required to pay employees commissions for deals that close after they are terminated? Unless the employment contract explicitly states otherwise, the answer is probably.

Employers have a choice when they decide to terminate an employee in Canada: They can provide “working notice” or they can pay termination pay in lieu of notice. If payment is made in lieu of notice, the general rule is that an employer must provide the terminated employee an amount at least equal to the wages the employee would have earned if that employee had worked during the notice period.

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Supreme Court of Canada: Vague Non-Compete Clause is Useless

February 10, 2009 - by: Derek Knoechel 0 COMMENTS

by Derek Knoechel

Morley Shafron sold his Vancouver-based insurance agency business in 1987 for $700,000 in cash and shares. He became a shareholder and director of the surviving company and agreed to provide management services. The agreement included a non-competition clause that would take effect if he left the company. The clause would prohibit him from engaging in the insurance brokerage business “within the metropolitan City of Vancouver” for a period of three years after departure.

The business changed hands three and a half years later. Morley signed another employment agreement with essentially the same non-competition clause, although he would be dropped from virtually all aspects of management. This agreement was renewed in 1993 and 1998, with the last agreement expiring December 31, 2000.

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Do Your Excess Hours and Overtime Averaging Permits Need to Be Renewed?

February 10, 2009 - by: Martin Denyes 0 COMMENTS

by Martin Denyes

As Ontario employers reduce their workforces and potentially look to smaller numbers of remaining employees to take on increasing workloads, February is the time to review existing excess hours agreements and permits and overtime averaging agreements and permits.

Legislation requiring permits and agreements for hours in excess of 48 in a week and in circumstances in which an employer averages hours over two or more weeks became effective in March 2004. Averaging agreements and permits must be renewed every two years. Excess hours agreements are on three year cycles. Averaging permits issued in 2007 will be up for renewal this year, while excess hours permits issued in 2006 are due for renewal this year.

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Categories: Employment Law

Key Considerations for a Business Visit to Canada

February 03, 2009 - by: Gilda Villaran 0 COMMENTS

by Gilda Villaran

U.S. companies doing business in Canada often have to send some of their U.S. employees on business trips to Canada. When making arrangements for a trip to Canada, immigration requirements for admission into Canada are certainly not what the U.S. employer thinks about first. On the contrary, at the very last minute, if ever, the question is posed: “Do our employees need any documents in order to cross the border?” The response is yes, probably they do.

The first important question to be asked is the citizenship of the employee. If the employee is a citizen of a country for which Canada requires a visa and is not a green-card holder, it will be necessary to make an application for a temporary resident visa at a Canadian consulate in the United States. Note that U.S. citizens do not need a visa to enter Canada.

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Categories: Immigration

Time to Bring Out the Sled Dogs!

January 27, 2009 - by: Northern Exposure 0 COMMENTS

by Stephen Acker and Leanne Fioravanti

More exotic modes of transport may need to be explored as Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, struggles with relentless snow storms and a highly controversial bus strike. Unfortunately there is no end in sight as the OC Transpo transit strike enters its second month in mid-January. This transit strike demonstrates:

  1. the distinction between provincially and federally regulated industries in Canada; and
  2. that union militancy is alive and well in certain parts of the frozen north.

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