The Manufacturers Act – or Act to protect the life and health of persons employed by manufacturers – had 38 sections and one appendix. It applied throughout the province and covered, as its official title indicates, all individuals employed by manufacturers with the exception of small family businesses having not more than 20 employees. This was the first intervention by the State in the labour field.
The Manufacturers Act was repealed and replaced by the Industrial Establishments Act, the fruit of recommendations of inspectors and of the analysis of French, English and Ontario laws. The new Act applied to all establishments of the industrial sector, with the exception of mines (already governed by the Mining Act) and family workshops, insofar as they were deemed salubrious and safe. The Industrial Establishments Act would later become the Industrial and Commercial Establishments Act.
The Women’s Minimum Wage Act did not replace the Industrial and Commercial Establishments Act. It occupied a different and complementary field of jurisdiction. While this Act entered into force on the day it was assented to, it remained inoperative until 1925. Six years would pass before the government would appoint commissioners, thereby creating the Women’s Minimum Wage Commission.
With the entry into force on September 1, 1937 of the Fair Wage Act, the protection of wages and minimum conditions of employment was extended to a larger number of trades and professions all across the province. Affecting both men and women, the Act assured workers the application of the following principle: equal minimum wage for equal work.
In addition to extending its field of jurisdiction, the Act comprised a large number of conditions of employment. Most of these conditions provided a lasting structure for several aspects of labour relations. They include:
Upon taking power in November 1939, the Liberal government of Premier Adélard Godbout replaced all of the existing labour laws. It also mandated Judge Ferdinand Roy to draft a minimum wage bill intended to replace the Fair Wage Act. The bill drawn up by Judge Roy was partly set aside by the Administration. Preference was given to the texts prepared by the Committee in charge of revamping the Collective Agreement Act, adapted to meet the government’s requirements. This would give birth to the new Minimum Wage Act.
The Minimum Wage Act was assented to on June 22, 1940 and entered into force by proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor in Council on September 18, 1940. The new Act applied to all employees of Québec who work for an employer or at home, and its provisions were considered public policy. Despite certain exceptions, there was a standard to which all employers were subject: the obligation to pay the wages in a pay envelope.
The Act respecting labour standards was assented to on June 22, 1979 and entered into force, with the exception of a few sections, on April 16, 1980. On that very day, the Commission des normes du travail began its activities with the mandate of overseeing the implementation and application of the Act respecting labour standards, by carrying out the following actions in particular:
The Government of Québec passed 3 bills which increased the field of jurisdiction of the Commission des normes du travail.
The government decided to modernize labour laws to take into account the new realities. The rules to which some 1.7 million Québec employees and their employers are subject were amended on May 1, 2003, with the coming into force of new provisions of the Act respecting labour standards. These new provisions introduced for these employees a series of new rights in addition to clarifying and simplifying several aspects of the responsibilities of Québec employers.
This substantial revision of the Act had 3 objectives: