He said many disputes could be headed off with the simple act of employers giving new workers a written notice setting out their rates of pay, hours of work, general holidays, annual vacations and conditions of work. He proposed to require that by law.
A survey for the inquiry found more than one in 10 employers covered by the code failed to provide three weeks of vacation to employees with 10 years of service, even though they are entitled after six years; and that more than half sometimes provided compensation for overtime in the form of time off rather than premium pay as the law requires.
Arthurs did not set a dollar figure for a federal minimum wage, but said he had received many submissions recommending $10 an hour. New Democratic Party MP Peggy Nash introduced a private member's bill for a $10 minimum wage in Parliament as he spoke at a news conference.
"The government should accept the principle that no Canadian worker should work full-time for a year and still live in poverty," the Arthurs report said. "This is an issue of fundamental decency that no modern, prosperous country like Canada can ignore."
His report contains 172 recommendations, ranging from equal pay for part-time and temporary workers who perform the same work as permanent and full-time employees to a requirement that would hold temporary worker placement agencies liable when a client does not pay wages or benefits.
He recommended "flexibility" to allow people to find balance between work and family. He said maternity, parental and compassionate care leave should be flexible and employers should allow more latitude if an employee has an emergency.
However, Arthurs rejected proposals that would force employers to pay overtime rates to managers, superintendents and professionals and to allow those senior categories of workers to refuse overtime work. He said so many people are "so deeply committed to the culture of long hours" that regulation won't work. The impact of burnout on business and families will eventually change attitudes, he predicted, laying the groundwork for regulation.
His recommendations cover some 12,000 enterprises and 840,000 workers in federally regulated industries: banking, telecommunications, broadcasting, postal services, airlines, trucking and some jobs at airports, seaports, grain handling facilities, nuclear facilities and First Nations governments.
While many of the workers are unionized and enjoy above-average pay and benefits, more than half are not unionized. Arthurs said in an interview he found pockets of disadvantaged workers in trucking, First Nations governments, courier companies, airport screening and employees of small business.
"I have tried to introduce the idea of sectoral standards to address the particular problems of these pockets of people," he said. "One size does not fit all."
The report was submitted to Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn who pledged to consult with employer and employee organizations and provincial labour ministers before proceeding with reforms.
The minimum wages of federally regulated workers are set at the rate of the province in which they work and those rates are below the poverty line in most jurisdictions, the report said. Provincial minimum wages as of June 2006 ranged from a low of $6.75 in Newfoundland to a high of $8 in British Columbia.
Arthurs proposed the establishment of "benefits banks" _ through government or private insurance companies _ so that temporary, part-time, agency, self-employed workers and small business owners could accumulate entitlement to drug and dental plans or pensions and other benefits.
He said he tried to strike a balance between business groups which generally favour less regulation in the work place and workers who favour more. He called for "flexibility" by employers and employees.
His report was welcomed by Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, as a "practical and overdue" basis for adapting the Labour Code to fit modern times.
What does everyone think about this? Good idea or bad? Why?