By Paul Vieira

OTTAWA-Over three dozen of Canada's biggest employers filed a complaint with the United Nations against the Justin Trudeau-led Liberal government, claiming officials repeatedly fail to address companies' concerns about changes to labor laws.

A lobby group known as Fetco -- which represents transport and communications companies that fall under federal jurisdiction -- said the Liberal government has not adhered to global standards, or conventions, agreed upon by members of the UN's International Labor Organization to "meaningfully consult" on labor-law changes. Fetco's 38 members, which employ about 500,000 Canadians, include some of North America's biggest railroads, Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Kansas City; airlines; and the country's main wireless phone and internet providers. Canadian National, CPKC and BCE, a telecom company, are among three of the 25 biggest companies on Toronto's main stock exchange, measured by market capitalization.

In the complaint, Fetco said the federal Liberal government has demonstrated "flagrant and ongoing failures" to meaningfully consult relating to nine pieces of legislation, among them a ban on the use of replacement workers during a strike, and providing federally regulated private-sector workers 10 paid days of sick leave.

"We don't want to be here but we are, because we have seen an ongoing pattern with this government," Fetco president Derrick Hynes said. "We feel like we run out of options."

Business groups across the country opposed the legislation regarding a ban on replacement workers during strikes, which the legislature approved last month and is now before the Senate. In a submission to the government, Fetco warned the ban could lead to more frequent and longer strikes, which pose a threat to the country's supply-chain networks.

The ILO's mandate is to promote core labor standards across the world, and its 187 members are encouraged to implement regulations that adhere to its 200 conventions. It is also a tripartite agency, meaning governments, organized labor and employers have a say on conventions and protocols.

An ILO spokeswoman declined to comment specifically on Fetco's complaint. She said the UN agency relies on "moral and legal suasion to find consensual solutions," and only resorts to punitive actions on the rarest of occasions. The ILO could not provide data on what share of complaints reviewed annually originate from companies.

A spokesman for Canadian Labor Minister Seamus O'Regan said the government brings employers and organized labor together to discuss labor policy, adding it is imperative to balance the demands of business and workers to help spur economic growth. The spokesman added that nearly 30 businesses participated in a recent roundtable with the minister on banning replacement workers, and officials reviewed over 40 written submissions from employers on the matter.

Hynes said the complaint aims to put the government's labor-relations process in the international spotlight. The goal, he said, is that through mediation "and other soft power from the ILO, Canada changes its ways and returns to full meaningful tripartite consultation with both of its two main social partners - unions and employers."

Write to Paul Vieira at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

06-07-24 1400ET