Accueil » 55-2 ( 2000) » Les clauses dites « orphelins » et la notion de discrimination dans la Charte des droits et libertés de la personne

Les clauses dites « orphelins » et la notion de discrimination dans la Charte des droits et libertés de la personne

Michel Coutu

Résumé

Les clauses dites « orphelins » ont été introduites au Québec vers le milieu des années 80. Récemment, un débat très vif a eu cours au sujet de la validité de ces clauses. La question du caractère discriminatoire ou non des clauses « orphelins », par rapport à la Charte des droits et libertés de la personne, a occupé fréquemment le devant de la scène au Québec pour aboutir à l'adoption, par l'Assemblée nationale, du projet de loi n" 67 modifiant la Loi sur les normes du travail. Cet article présente d'abord le concept de discrimination et ses possibilités d'application au phénomène des clauses « orphelins », étudie la portée des exceptions au principe de discrimination dans l'emploi qui pourraient faire écran à d'éventuelles plaintes en ce domaine, pour examiner enfin la juridiction respective de la Commission des normes du travail et de la Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse.

Abstract

Two-tier wage agreements and various « grandfather » clauses were introduced in Quebec in the mid-1980s. In recent years, a vigorous debate has arisen about the legality of such clauses. A significant part of the debate has focused on the discriminatory nature of two-tier wage plans as considered under the Quebec Human Rights Charter. Opponents of two-tier wage plans, such as youth organizations and the Human Rights Commission itself, argued that such agreements could be discriminatory, primarily on the basis of age. Only an amendment to the Act respecting Labour Standards making two-tier wage agreements illegal, argued the opponents of two-tier wage plans, could address this problem. Despite strong opposition frorn employers' associations, the National Assembly finally amended this Act in December 1999.

But changes to the Act respecting Labour Standards can only be viewed as a partial response to the problems raised by two-tier wage plans. The new chapter VII. 1 only makes illegal those plans that are permanent in nature (i.e. collective agreements with two scales of wages for the same work, depending on the date of hiring). Despite the lack of clarity of article 87.3, the intented effect is to deny any remedy against temporary two-tier wage agreements, where the progression of workers with little or no seniority towards wage parity is delayed by different means. The only reservation is that the temporary inequality should be gradually abolished, in a « reasonable time ».

Chapter VIL 1 of the Act respecting Labour Standards does not affect many of the inequalities produced by two-tier wage plans. There remains some scope for the application of the Human Rights Charter, when discriminatory effects, on the basis of age or other grounds, can be statistically proven. In the first part of this article, the author examines the concept of discrimination in the Quebec Charter of Rights, taking into account the recent decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Meiorinand Grismercases, and applies it to the analysis of discriminatory situations in the context of two-tier wage agreements. The exceptions to the notion of discrimination in the Quebec Charter are then examined. The author concludes that these offer scant defence against complaints of discrimination on this count. In the third part of the article, the jurisdictions of the Quebec Human Rights Commission and the Commission des normes du travall, which will enforce chapter VIL 1, are analysed with regard to complaints about two-tier wage plans and other « grandfather » clauses. It is argued that the Human Rights Commission, which played a significant part in the debate on two-tier wage agreements, should continue to play an active role and accept complaints as long as the scope of chapter VIL 1 is not defined more precisely by the courts.

The social and political implications of the debate will probably bear strongly on the legal discussion of the rules involved. In essence, at the symbolic level, two-tier wage plans gave rise to public controversy in Quebec because they raised the larger question of the integration of youth as full citizens. This analysis is made with reference to the concept of industrial citizenship,first advanced by T.H. Marshall in England and translated in the Canadian labour context by H.W. Arthurs.

Resumen

Las clausulas llamadas « huerfanas » fueron introducidas en Québec a mediados de los anos 80. Recientemente, tuvo lugar un debate muy vivaz a proposito de la validez de dichas clausulas. La cuestion del caracter discriminatorio o no discriminatorio de las clausulas « huerfanas » con respecta a la Carta de derechos y libertades de la persona, ha ocupado frecuentemente el debate publico [le devant de la scène] en Québec y ha llevado a la adopciòn, por la Asamblea nacional, del proyecto de ley n° 67 que modfïca la Ley de las norams de trabajo. En este articulo, se présenta primeramente el concepto de discrimination y sus posibilidades de aplicaciòn al fenomeno de las clausulas «huerfanas»; se estudia también el alcance de las excepciones al principio de discrimination en el empleo, que podrian dar lugar a eventuales quejas en este campo; finalemente, se examina la juridiction respectiva de la Comision de las normas de trabajo y de la Comision de derechos de la persona y derechos de la juventud.