Mired in scandal, the federal Conservatives ramp up their anti-union campaign

Federal Conservative MP, Blaine Calkins, introduced Bill C-525, “An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Public Service Labour Relations Act (certification and revocation – bargaining agent), on June 5, 2013. What will change under Bill C-525?

  • Cards representing 45% of a bargaining unit are required to trigger a vote (in most jurisdictions the threshold is lower, usually 40%).
  • The union must win a majority of all members in the bargaining unit to be certified (NOT A MAJORITY OF BALLOTS CAST).  This seems to be unique in Canadian labour law, and is a higher bar again.
  • In a decert vote (also triggered by 45% signatures), the UNION (not those favouring decertification) must once again receive support from A MAJORITY OF THE BARGAINING UNIT.  That’s a double distortion: not only are you counting bargaining unit members (not votes), but the onus is placed on the status quo (not those wanting a change). [This summary was taken from a contributor’s note published over the CCPA’s Trade Union Research Collective list… check out the Centre’s excellent Labour Matters section for more information]

 

Requiring a majority of a bargaining unit to support certification, and not simply the workers who cast ballots, runs counter to the basic tenets of parliamentary democracy. No politician in Canada in any jurisdiction is required to meet this standard. Interestingly, business groups and industry lobbyist have been advocating for this standard since Canada’s industrial relations legislation was being framed in the early post-War period. The Bill also makes it easier for a bargaining unit to decertify.

Let’s be clear about what’s happening here. Assisted by anti-union lobby groups like Merit Contractors, and their supposed “open shop principles”, the federal Conservatives are ramping up their anti-union reforms at a time when the governing party is mired in corruption and financial scandals. One Conservative MP, Brent Rathgeber, who, incidentally, voted against Bill C-377, recently resigned from the Conservative caucus over his party’s lack of transparency. C-525 is an anti-democratic bill introduced by an increasingly centralized, and authoritarian government which has concentrated power in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The Conservative Party convention later this month will address “union policy”.

It might be time for unions to take on groups like Merit and their far-right allies in the lobby group directly.

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