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Canadian workers aren't entitled to bathroom breaks, lawyer says – CTV News

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TORONTO —
In Hamilton, Ont., the union representing bus drivers reached a last-minute deal with the city on Wednesday to narrowly avoid a strike.

A week earlier, Ottawa’s bus service came under fire when one of their drivers wrote a scathing open letter concerning his working conditions.

Last month, a bus drivers’ union in Vancouver averted a strike by coming to an agreement with the city.

In all of those cases, the issue of bathroom breaks was a primary concern for bus drivers who work long hours on tight schedules with few opportunities for bathroom breaks.

Bus drivers aren’t alone, either.

For workers in other industries, such as trucking, food production, or auto parts assembly, where an abrupt pause can delay the entire operation, bathroom breaks can be a point of contention between employers and employees.

In the case of the Ottawa bus operator, Chris Grover, he wrote in his open letter to the Ottawa Citizen newspaper that OC Transpo drivers have virtually no time between runs and sometimes don’t even get a minute for a bathroom break.

“I have personally worked a ten-hour shift where the longest break on paper was 5 minutes, and I was 29 minutes late after my second trip,” he wrote.

And while Grover is a member of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 279, which is advocating for his and his colleagues’ rights, other non-unionized workers in Canada have little recourse if they’re penalized for taking too long or too many bathroom breaks in the workplace.

That’s because there are no statutes in any jurisdiction in Canada that deal directly with bathroom breaks or unscheduled personal breaks.

Under the Canada Labour Code, all employees are entitled to an unpaid 30-minute break after a period of five consecutive hours of work. However, that is usually intended for meals and not bathroom breaks, specifically. These breaks can also be cancelled by employers as long as the worker is paid to work through that time.

Paul Champ, an Ottawa-based labour and human rights lawyer, said bathroom breaks aren’t specifically addressed in provincial labour laws because they are left up to the “reasonableness and common sense” of employers.

“It’s left to the common sense and reasonableness of the employer and in most cases you would hope that common sense and basic dignity would win out,” he told CTVNews.ca during a telephone interview on Friday morning.

Most of the time, regular visits to the bathroom are not a “big deal” for employers, Champ said.

However, there are times when workers require special accommodations, for instance, when a medical condition or disability requires them to visit the bathroom more often or for longer periods of time.

In those cases, Champ said a doctor’s note will usually take care of the problem. If not, he said the employee may be able to file a human rights complaint for financial compensation.

“There are some court cases like that in Canada where people get $2,000 – $3,000 for being denied a medically required bathroom break,” Champ said.

If the employee doesn’t have a medical requirement and they’re being refused a bathroom break, Champ said they will either have to reason with their employer directly or rely on their union to advocate on their behalf if they have one.

“In some of these workplaces, people are very vulnerable. Food processing and so forth, they’re usually lower income jobs, vulnerable workers, and it’s very hard for them to raise those issues,” he said.

Alternatively, Champ said workers can continue visiting the bathroom on their own schedule and if they’re fired for it, he said they may have cause for a constructive dismissal case, which concerns unjust dismissals.

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Horse race marks Sydney’s emergence from long COVID-19 lockdown

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Thousands of Sydney residents flocked to a prominent horse race on Saturday, as Australia’s biggest city emerges from a strict COVID-19 lockdown and the nation begins to live with the coronavirus through extensive vaccination.

Up to 10,000 fully vaccinated spectators can now attend races such as The Everest https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/horse-racing-third-time-lucky-nature-strip-everest-2021-10-16 in Sydney, Australia’s richest turf horse race, and the country’s most famous, Melbourne Cup Day, on Nov. 2.

New South Wales State, of which Sydney is the capital, reached its target of 80% of people fully vaccinated on Saturday, well ahead of the rest of Australia.

“80% in NSW! Been a long wait but we’ve done it,” New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Twitter.

The state reported 319 new coronavirus cases, all of the Delta variant, and two deaths on Saturday. Many restrictions were eased in New South Wales on Monday, when it reached 70% double vaccinations.

Neighbouring Victoria, where the capital Melbourne has been in lockdown for weeks, reported 1,993 new cases and seven deaths, including the state’s youngest victim, a 15-year-old girl.

Victoria is expected to reach 70% double vaccination before Oct. 26 and ease its restrictions more slowly than New South Wales has, drawing criticism from the federal government on Saturday.

“It is really sad that Victorians are being held back,” said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

Australia is set to gradually lift its 18-month ban on international travel https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/covid-19-infections-linger-near-record-levels-australias-victoria-2021-10-14 from next month for some states when 80% of people aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated. As of Friday, 67.2% of Australians were fully inoculated, and 84.4% had received at least one shot.

The country closed its international borders in March 2020, since then allowing only a limited number of people to leave or citizens and permanent residents abroad to return, requiring them to quarantine for two weeks.

Australia’s overall coronavirus numbers are low compared to many other developed countries, with just over 140,000 cases and 1,513 deaths.

(Reporting in Melbourne by Lidia Kelly; Editing by William Mallard)

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Lebanese Christian group denies Hezbollah claim it planned Beirut bloodshed

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The Head Of The Christian Lebanese Forces Party (LF) denied late on Friday his group had planned street violence in Beirut that killed seven people, and said a meeting held the day before was purely political.

Thursday’s violence, which began as people were gathering for a protest called by Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah against the judge investigating last year’s Beirut port blast, was the worst in over a decade and stirred memories of the country’s ruinous sectarian civil war from 1975-90.

Samir Geagea told Voice of Lebanon International radio that a meeting held on Wednesday by a political grouping the LF belongs to had discussed action options should Iran-backed Hezbollah succeed in efforts to remove the judge.

Geagea said the option agreed upon in that event was to call for a public strike, and nothing else.

The powerful Hezbollah group stepped up accusations against the LF on Friday, saying it killed the seven Shi’ites to try to drag the country into a civil war.

The violence, which erupted at a boundary between Christian and Shi’ite neighbourhoods, has added to concerns over the stability of a country that is awash with weapons and grappling with one of the world’s worst ever economic meltdowns.

Asked whether the presence of LF members in the areas of Ain al-Remmaneh and Teyouneh, where the shooting erupted, meant the incident was planned, Geagea said they were always present in these areas.

The security coordinator in the party contacted the authorities when they heard a protest was planned and asked for a heavy military presence in the area “as our priority was for the demonstration to pass by simply as a demonstration and not affect civil peace,” Geagea said.

Geagea said his party was assured that would be the case.

“The army has arrested snipers so they need to tell us who they are and where they came from.”

Nineteen people have been detained so far in relation to the incident.

Geagea, whose party has close ties to Saudi Arabia, also criticised President Michel Aoun over a phone call between the two during the incident.

Aoun’s party, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), Lebanon’s largest Christian bloc, is an ally of Hezbollah.

“I didn’t like this call at all,” Geagea said, saying Aoun implicitly made the same accusations of involvement that Hezbollah has by asking him to calm down the situation.

“This is totally unacceptable.”

(Reporting by Maha El DahanEditing by Shri Navaratnam and Mark Potter)

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New Zealand vaccinates 2.5% of its people in a day in drive to live with COVID-19

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New Zealand vaccinated at least 2.5% of its people on Saturday as the government tries to accelerate inoculations and live with COVID-19, preliminary health ministry data showed.

Through an array of strategies, gimmicks and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s encouragement through the day, 124,669 shots were administered by late in the day in a country of 4.9 million.

“We set a target for ourselves, Aotearoa, you’ve done it, but let’s keep going,” Ardern said, using a Maori name for New Zealand at a vaccination site, according to the Newshub news service. “Let’s go for 150 [thousand]. Let’s go big or go home.”

New Zealand had stayed largely virus-free for most of the pandemic until an outbreak of the Delta Variant in mid-August. The government now aims to have the country live with COVID-19 through higher inoculations.

Forty-one new cases were reported on Saturday, 40 of them in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. It has been in lockdown since mid-August to stamp out the Delta outbreak. Officials plan to end the strict restrictions when full vaccination rates reach 90%.

As of Friday, 62% of New Zealand’s eligible population had been fully vaccinated and 83% had received one shot.

Vaccination spots were set up on Saturday throughout the country, including at fast-food restaurants and parks, with some spots offering sweets afterwards, local media reported.

“I cannot wait to come and play a concert, I want to be sweaty and dancing and maybe not even wearing masks. Hopefully we can get there,” said pop singer Lorde, according to local media.

“Protect your community, get yourself a little tart, perhaps a little cream bun,” she said. “But please, please get that jab.”

Final results of the mass vaccination drive are expected to be released on Sunday.

 

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Rditing by William Mallard)

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