Robyn Benson, PSAC

Conservative attacks on workers continue

anti-union card.JPG

The Conservative government’s all-out war on union rights has barely begun. Here’s what the fast-approaching Fall is looking like.

The infamous Bill C-377 may have been stopped in its tracks this summer by the Senate, but Stephen Harper has vowed to bring it back when Parliament reconvenes. On top of that, a new anti-union bill is coming down the pike, C-525, also posing as a “private member’s bill.”

Senator Hugh Segal made a monumental speech against C-377, he skewered the obviously discriminatory, union-busting nature of the Bill:

If this is to apply to trade unions, why would it not apply to rotary clubs, the Fraser Institute, Christian, Muslim and Jewish congregations across Canada, the Council of Chief Executives, local car dealers or the many farming groups, like the cattlemen’s associations or the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, all of whom do great work? How about local constituency associations, food banks, soup kitchens, or anglers and hunters clubs?

But Segal also warned of “right-to-work legislation that is being proposed in the other place as a private member’s bill.” While C-525 doesn’t abolish the Rand formula (but you’d better believe that the latter won’t be long in coming), it stacks the deck against unionization in Canada.

As anyone who has done any workplace organizing knows, employers are not usually welcoming when their employees start up a unionization drive. You go one-on-one, usually off-site, getting cards signed until you get enough for a vote, presently 35% under the Canada Labour Code. If you win the subsequent vote, you’re unionized.

C-525 changes the rules for all employees falling under the Canada Labour Code, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Parliamentary Employees Staff Relations Act. It sets a very high threshold for even having a certification vote in the first place—45% of the bargaining unit—but goes on to require that more than 50% of the entire unit, not just of those who actually take part in the vote, must support unionization.

In other words, every abstention is counted as a vote against the union.

It gets far worse, however, for those who come under the Public Service Labour Relations Act. If some employees decide that they want to decertify, and can satisfy the Board that they represent 45% of the bargaining unit, a vote must be held. But it’s not a vote to decertify—it’s a vote to stay certified. So, once again, every abstention is counted as a vote against the union.

But here’s the kicker for the PSLRA folks: a majority in favour of the union won’t save it. If the union doesn’t win 55% of the vote, it is automatically decertified:

  1. If, after conducting the representation vote referred to in section 95, the Board is satisfied that at least 45% of the employees in the bargaining unit have not voted in favour of continued representation by the employee organization, it must revoke the certification of the employee organization as the bargaining agent.

Sometimes it gets just a little too obvious, eh?

Canada’s Constitution and the Charter of Rights, which guarantee freedom of association, evidently won’t be allowed to stand in the way of the Harper government. Make no mistake: its opposition to unions is visceral. It will use any means, fair or foul, to crush them. And if we let them get away with it, the whole country will eventually end up under a Mississippi-style “right to work” labour regime. A hundred years or more of hard-won labour rights will be out the window.

This is the Harper vision: workers no longer able to join together to speak with one voice. Government and business having their way with us. It’s legal divide and rule—and I do mean rule.

Against this campaign to violate the rights of every single worker in Canada, backed by right-wing politicians, corporations, business groups, media drones and various well-heeled shills (I’m looking at you, MERIT), we have only one stark choice before us: to fight back.

Are we up for it?

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This page contains a single entry by Robyn Benson, PSAC published on August 19, 2013 8:30 AM.

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