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Government of Manitoba
Growth, Enterprise and Trade

Labour Programs - Research, Legislation & Policy

A History of Manitoba Labour Programs

Much of the foundation for labour legislation in North America emerged from a period of crisis early this century. Institutional stakeholders, business, government and labour realized that the instability of strikes, lock-outs and unending confrontation were detrimental to the efficiency of business, the economy and society. As a consequence, a labour relations framework evolved that outlines the roles, responsibilities, rights and obligations of labour, management, and government. This framework ensures the legislation is fair and equitable to both employees and employers.

The Department of Labour was formed in 1940, having previously been the Bureau of Labour in the Department of Public Works. Although the Department was not formally created until 1940, fire prevention safety legislation has been in place in Manitoba since 1872. Today with responsibility for 20 Statutes and 42 Regulations in the areas of labour relations, employment standards, workplace safety and health, public safety and pensions, the Department touches a diverse and extensive cross-section of Manitoba.

Legislative History Highlights

Manitoba, as well as other Canadian jurisdictions, recognizes the importance of providing legislated minimum standards for wages, working conditions, workplace safety, labour relations, pensions and public safety. The Department's key legislative developments include:


The Fires Prevention Act provided for the prevention of prairie fires and the conducting of fire investigations.


The Manitoba Public Buildings Act provided for public building safety.


The Minimum Wage Act provided for a basic living wage.


The Vacations With Pay Act provided for annual paid vacations.


The Labour Relations Act provided protection for both employers and employees and established of the Manitoba Labour Board as a quasi-judicial tribunal to adjudicate labour relations issues.


The Employment Standards Act provided for consolidate and expand provisions pertaining to minimum wage, hours of work, general holidays, termination of employment, etc.

The Equal Pay Act provided for equal pay for equal work in an establishment.


The Construction Industry Wages Act regulated wages and working conditions in the construction industry and provided a level playing field for contract bidding.

The Manitoba Labour Management Review Committee, an external advisory and consultative body on labour relations issues, was created by a resolution of the Legislature.


The Employment Standards Act was amended to reduce standard hours of work from 44 to 40 per week and provide for paid general holidays.

The Payment of Wages Act provided administrative procedures for the collection of unpaid wages.


The Labour Relations Act was amended to address unfair labour practices, certification and the compulsory check-off of union dues.


The Vacations With Pay Act was amended to provide for a three week vacation after five years of service.


The Buildings and Mobile Homes Act extended public safety standards and codes to all buildings.


The Workplace Safety and Health Act set standards for safe and healthy workplaces and defined the responsibilities of the partners.

The Pension Benefits Act provided to protect pension benefits provided by private plans by ensuring their financial viability and availability upon retirement.


The Retail Businesses Holiday Closing Act required retail business establishments to remain closed on certain specified holidays and on Sundays.


The Labour Relations Act underwent major revisions including changes to the certification and collective bargaining processes, as well as conciliation and mediation.


The Pay Equity Act addressed the wage gap between men and women doing comparable work in the public sector.


The Employment Standards Act was amended to provide for parental leave.


The Labour Relations Act was amended with respect to first contract provisions, certification process and freedom of speech provisions.


The Retail Businesses Holiday Closing Act was amended to enable municipalities to adopt bylaws allowing for more liberalized Sunday and holiday shopping.


The Pension Benefits Act was amended to address garnishment of pension benefit credits, as a step towards enforcement of family maintenance payments.


The Labour Relations Act was amended to include automatic secret ballot certification votes, financial disclosure by unions and conduct during a labour stoppage.

The Construction Industry Wages Act was amended to exclude the house building sector from the Act.

The Remembrance Day Act was amended to permit all retail operations to open before 9:00 a.m. and after 1:00 p.m.


The consolidated Employment Standards Code received Royal Assent and was proclaimed in effect May 1, 1999.


The Labour Relations Act was amended to address such matters as automatic certification, reinstatement after a work stoppage, alternate dispute settlement in collective bargaining and successor rights where a business transfers from federal to provincial jurisdiction. Changes also made most provisions of the Act applicable to public school teachers.

The Employment Standards Code was amended to increase parental leave from 17 to 37 weeks and reduce the qualification period for maternity and parental leave from 12 to 7 months.

The Holocaust Memorial Day Act was enacted to recognize Yom Hashoah, the Day of the Holocaust, as a day of reflection about the enduring lessons of the Holocaust.


The Manitoba Ethnocultural Advisory and Advocacy Act established the Manitoba Ethnocultural Advisory and Advocacy Council to advise the government on matters of importance to the ethnocultural community.

The Pension Benefits Act was amended to provide for the recognition of same-sex partners.


The Workplace Safety and Health Act was amended extensively in relation to duties of employers and supervisors, Safety and Health programs, duties of committees, the right to refuse dangerous work, discriminatory action, administrative penalties and other matters.

The Fire Departments Arbitration Act was amended to address the compulsory binding arbitration provisions applicable to paramedics employed by the City of Winnipeg. The Act was renamed The Firefighters and Paramedics Arbitration Act.


The Employment Standards Code was amended to provide for up to 8 weeks of unpaid compassionate care leave to employees to care for a gravely ill family member and enhanced job protection for workers who are pregnant or who take maternity, parental or compassionate care leave.


The Immigration Council Act provided for the establishment of the Manitoba Immigration Council to provide information and advice to the government with respect to immigration matters.

The Workplace Safety and Health Act was amended to allow for the making of regulations, under The Non-Smokers Health Protection Act, respecting the prohibition of smoking at workplaces and the issuance of improvement orders in the case of contraventions.

The Engineering and Geoscientific Professions Act was amended to enhance the ability of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of the Province of Manitoba to promote the professions of engineering and geoscience and to authorize the Association to make charitable contributions, gifts and grants to promote the interests of the profession in the public interest.

The Labour Relations Act was amended to provide expedite procedures for the settlement of work stoppages that have continued for at least 60 days.


The Pension Benefits Act was amended to permit the transfer of up to 50% of certain locked-in benefits to an income fund that is not locked-in, to revise portability provisions and allow for phased-in retirement. The unlocking provisions were proclaimed in force May 25, 2005.


The Workplace Safety and Health Act was amended to require the use of safety-engineered needles in medical workplaces.

The Electricians' Licence Act was amended to eliminate the “helper” category of worker as well as three categories of licences, to specify who may perform certain types of electrical work and to accommodate the introduction of compulsory certification under the apprenticeship program.

The Workers Compensation Act was amended to expand presumptive compensation for firefighters who contract certain cancers, increase permanent injury benefits, eliminate benefit reductions for workers 45 and older, provide 100% wage replacement for minimum wage earners and to enact other changes based on the Report of the Review Committee on The Workers Compensation Act.

The Architects and Engineers Scope Practice Dispute Settlement Act amended:

  • The Architects Act to clarify what work can be performed by a professional engineer in relation to the construction, enlargement or alteration of buildings and facilitate the joint practice of architecture and professional engineering.
  • The Buildings and Mobile Homes Act to allow for the enactment of regulations which outline when an architect, a professional engineer, or both, will be required in the design and planning of a building or alteration.
  • The Engineering and Geoscientific Professions Act to mirror several of the amendments to The Architects Act.

The Fire Prevention and Emergency Response Act was amended to enhance the powers of the Fire Commission and local authorities and to improve fire prevention, investigation and emergency response capabilities.

The Employment Standards Code Act was extensively amended to bring the Act up to date. Added provisions include unpaid family leave, unpaid bereavement leave and administrative penalties. Amendments were made to general application provisions, enforcement, standard hours of work, general overtime, wages for reporting for work and employment of children.


The Employment Standards Code was amended to provide job protection for members of the reserve force of the Canadian Forces. It gives them a right to an unpaid leave to participate in training or active duty in the reserves.

The Fair Registration Practices in Regulated Professions Act received Royal Assent November 8, 2007 (proclaimed April 15, 2009). This Act ensures that regulated professions and people applying for registration to practice those professions are governed by registration practices that are transparent, objective, impartial and fair. It provides for the appointment of a fair registration practices commissioner who may assess the registration practices of regulated professions including practices related to people educated outside Canada. The minister is required to provide information and assistance respecting fair registration practices to people educated in other countries, regulated professions and others.

The Statutory Holidays Act amended:

  • The Employment Standards Code to establish the third Monday in February as a statutory holiday. This day is named, “Louis Riel Day”.


The International Labour Cooperation Agreements Implementation Act was proclaimed June 12, 2008 (except for Part 2 which was proclaimed February 17, 2009). This Act provides a mechanism for the Government of Manitoba to approve international labour cooperation agreements. In addition, it provides the enforcement of determinations made under the Canada-Chile Labour Cooperation Agreement.

The Worker Recruitment and Protection Act received Royal Assent on June 12, 2008 (proclaimed February 14, 2009). This Act requires the following to be licensed: employment agencies; individuals involved in recruiting foreign workers; and anyone involved in recruiting or representing children under the age of 17 who perform as entertainers or models. The Act also requires employers who recruit foreign workers to be registered and children who are represented by child talent agencies to have work permits.


The Buildings and Mobile Homes Act was amended to allow for the creation of a Farm Building Code.  The Code applies to farm buildings, with a building area over 600m2  that are being newly constructed or undergoing major renovations to meet safe building standards. 


The Workplace Safety and Health Act was amended to increase the maximum fines that may be imposed on a person who is found guilty of contravening the Act.   The first offence was increased to $250,000 from $150,000 and the second or subsequence offence was increased to $500,000 from $300,000.

The Employment Standards Code was amended to allow for unpaid leave of absence for the purpose of living organ and tissue donation. Employees are given the opportunity to take up to 13 weeks of unpaid time off while they prepare for, undergo and recover from transplant surgery.   This leave can be extended for an additional 13 weeks if recommended by a physician.

The Electricians’ Licence Act was amended to allow the minister to issue a licence to an individual who is certified to perform electrical work in another jurisdiction when the individual applies to be licensed to perform that electrical work in Manitoba.


Amendments to The Firefighters and Paramedics Arbitration Act was passed on June 16, 2011 to allow for compulsory arbitration for unionized part time (“volunteer”) firefighters.  Under the new provisions, collective bargaining disputes, regarding all unionized firefighters employed by municipalities, will be settled by binding arbitration with no work stoppages. 

The Essential Services (Health Care) and Related Amendments Act was passed on June 16, 2011, to provide for new essential services requirements in the health care sector during a work stoppage.  The new Act provides a process for employers and unions to enter into essential services agreements prior to any work stoppages in the sector; sets out minimum requirements, to be expressly provided for by an essential services agreement; and provides a mechanism to allow the parties to take any matter in dispute to arbitration.

On June 16, 2011, The Pension Benefits Amendment Act (Act) was enacted.  Based on unanimous recommendations of the Pension Commission, endorsed by the Labour Management Review Committee, the legislation strengthens enforcement and appeal processes, including the ability to issue administrative penalties, file orders and appropriate documents with the court, register liens with the Personal Property Registry and Land Titles, and permits the implementation of a new Memorandum of Reciprocal Agreement Respecting Multi-Jurisdictional Pension Plans by providing Manitoba with the authority to adopt the rules of another jurisdiction.

Amendments to The Employment Standards Codewas passed on June 16, 2011, to provide for the following, bringing Manitoba on par with most other jurisdictions:

  • Increase flexibility in work hours
  • Just cause standard for termination replacing the current, stricter standard of wilful misconduct.
  • Allow employers to recover overpayments (wages and cash advances) to employees. 


Amendments to The Retail Business Holiday Closing Act were passed on June 14, 2012 to expand shopping hours in Manitoba for Sundays and certain holidays.

The Employment Standards Code was amended to allow for unpaid leaves and be eligible for the new federal benefits.

  • Critical illness of a child: Up to 37 weeks of unpaid leave to allow parents to provide care and support for a critically ill child who is under 18 years old. It is intended that the leave will come into effect in June 2013 to coincide with the introduction of federal income support benefits.
  • Death or disappearance of a child: Up to 104 weeks of unpaid leave for parents in the event of the death of the child, or up to 52 weeks of unpaid leave in the event of the disappearance of a child, that occurred as a result of a crime under the Criminal Code. This leave came into effect January 1, 2013, to coincide with the introduction of federal income support benefits.

Comprehensive amendments to modernize the Operation of Mines Regulation under The Workplace Safety and Health Act came into effect on April 1, 2012.  The changes reflect best practices within the mining industry to ensure that Manitoba’s mine safety legislation keeps pace with other jurisdictions in protecting the safety and health of workers.  The amendments also include new provisions for safe work procedures, and a prohibition on tethering workers to remote-controlled machinery (except for fall protection), which stemmed from recommendations made by a government inquiry into the Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting furnace explosion in August 2000.


The Employment Standards Code was amended to repeal a provision that allowed certain employers, by permit to pay less than minimum wage to people with disabilities.

The Workplace Safety and Health Act was amended to enable a stop work order to apply to all Manitoba workplaces of an employer when similar activities at multiple workplaces involve, or are likely to involve, an imminent risk of serious physical or health injury; provide for the appointment of a chief prevention officer and setting out the officer's mandate; strengthening provisions for a worker exercising their right to refuse unsafe work; require a worker safety and health representative in every workplace with 5 or more workers, rather than 10 or more; require a workplace safety and health committee in seasonal workplaces, if there are at least 20 workers and the work is expected to continue for at least 90 days; clarify provisions for paid training and other activities of worker safety and health representatives and committee members; and expand the list of activities or contraventions for which administrative penalties. 


The Fires Prevention and Emergency Response Act was amended to allow an administrative penalty to be imposed for failing to comply with an order made under the Act.

The Labour Relations Act was amended to require the Manitoba Labour Board to make regulations setting out time periods for the Board to make decisions following the hearing of a complaint, application, or referral to the Board.

The Workers Compensation Act was amended to increase penalties for employers that suppress claims, provide greater clarity around responsibilities for reporting workplace injuries, and requiring that an employer that takes discriminatory action against a worker to provide that the action is unrelated to the worker making the claim. Amendments also establish a prevention committee as part of the Workers Compensation Board to oversee the new workplace prevention initiative SAFE Work Manitoba.

The Worker Recruitment and Protection Act and The Employment Standards Code were amended to strengthen workplace protections for workers employed through temporary help agencies and reduce barriers for workers employed through temporary help agencies from obtaining direct employment.

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