From the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” file

June 17, 2013

From the CEP website:

On Wednesday, June 5, 2013, Private Members’ Bill C-525 was introduced by Blaine Calkins, Conservative member of Parliament for Wetaskiwin, Alberta. The Bill proposes significant amendments to Canadian labour legislation that would alter the certification and decertification rules for union members.

Trade unions and working people have become one of the prime targets for Conservative politicians at all levels. In the past year, we have seen unprecedented attacks on our rights, on our democratic organizations and on our ability to effectively defend the interest of all workers. After Bill C – 377, the temporary foreign workers program and the wrecking of Employment Insurance, another anti-worker measure has just been introduced.

For decades, union certification under the Canada Labour Code has required a simple majority (50%+1) of the members of a workforce to sign membership cards to form a union. This model is known as “automatic card-check”.

Bill C-525 proposes to eliminate this model for federally-regulated sectors. In its place, the union certification process would require an onerous two step card-signing and voting process. It would require 45% of the members of a bargaining unit to sign cards and once this threshold is reached, the Labour Board would oversee a secret-ballot vote.

This shift away from card-check would make it difficult to organize votes for bargaining units spread across the country. Employees in the transport sector, for instance, are regularly in different places. More importantly, the card-check process protects workers from intimidation. It is widely understood and confirmed by many academic studies that secret-ballot workplace votes reduce union certification as they give employers an opportunity to intimidate their workforce through compulsory antiunion meetings and implicit threats of job loss.

In addition, the certification vote under Bill C-525 would be heavily biased against unions. In a complete deviation from voting traditions, Bill C-525 would require unions to receive more than 50% of votes of the entire proposed bargaining unit rather than 50 percent of total votes cast. This means that those unwilling or unable to vote are effectively deemed to have voted against unionization.

The same double standard is at play when decertifying a union. Over 50 percent of the entire bargaining unit would need to vote in favour of the union – regardless of participation rates – or the union will be decertified. This will enable decertification without majority support. In effect, this Bill would allow a minority of members to challenge the existence of the unit on a continual basis.

The Conservative government will try to paint this bill as an effort to “modernize” the Canada Labour Code and bring it “in line” with provincial legislation. This is misleading. Bill C-525 would make it harder to create new bargaining units and easier to decertify existing ones.

This legislation greatly undermines a union’s ability to represent and negotiate on behalf of workers. It’s the latest step in the Conservative government’s plan to reduce the power of workers to the benefit of employers and the business class. There is also another anti-worker piece of legislation is currently being debated in the Senate. Bill C-377 will unfairly force unions to disclose financial information that no employer has the obligation to make public.

Sign the Petition here.