Sharon DeSousa

Anti-labour rumblings in Ontario



Right to work.jpg

With so much in the news recently about the Harper government’s numerous anti-union initiatives, it’s easy to forget that the same struggles are shaping up in other jurisdictions.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that Ontario looks to be a major battleground in the future. After all, key figures in the Harper government—Tony Clement, John Baird, Jim Flaherty—originally served in the Mike Harris provincial government. They do stay in touch with their provincial counterparts. And ideology travels freely across borders and jurisdictions in any case.

Opposition Leader Tim Hudak has already laid all the familiar anti-union cards on the table. “Pathways to Prosperity,” he calls his action plan. But those in the know call it a “pathway to poverty.”

Be assured that the anti-labour component of Hudak’s “pathways” is no quickly-forgotten policy document gathering dust somewhere. As we have now learned, it is likely to form the cutting edge of Tim Hudak’s next electoral campaign.

Less than two weeks ago, backbencher Monte McNaughton was virtually quoting from it, echoing the same nonsense about lack of transparency in union finances that the feds used to justify the union-busting bill C-377: the latter just reintroduced in the Senate last month.

Unions are democratic structures whose leaders are held accountable by their membership who elect them. Policy decisions are created democratically, and it’s likely a lot of those decisions will offend anti-union conservatives—no surprise there.

No union I’m familiar with conceals its annual audited financial statements or its Convention-approved budget from its members, so the alleged need for union “transparency” is a false assumption. The reporting requirements set out in C-377 are far more onerous than for any other non-profit institution, or Canadian corporation. C-377 is intended to drown unions in paperwork, divert their resources, and give early warning to employers. Hudak’s “Pathways to Prosperity” calls for the same union-busting tactic.

At the federal level, we also have C-525 to contend with: A “private member” initiative that would allow a minority of workers to prevent certification of unions and to decertify unions already in place. But Hudak goes much further, promising to repeal the Rand Formula.

With the passage of a “right to work (for less)” law in neighbouring Michigan, Hudak wants to transform Ontario into a “right to work” jurisdiction as well. Workers in a union shop would be permitted to benefit from a collective agreement without having to pay any dues. Unions would even be forced to represent the free-riders. The “prosperity” Hudak talks about is for business owners, not for the workers who would face a significant wage penalty if such legislation were passed. (Here’s a substantial take on what “right to work” actually means, from labour law professor David Doorey).

Given that the Conservative Party convention in Calgary has just made “right to work” an official Conservative policy, Ontario is likely to be an important testing-ground for the feds. That makes it doubly important for workers in Ontario to be on their guard and to do what has to be done.

Only union principles and union solidarity will save us when our fundamental union rights are threatened. Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives are here to test our resolve—and its up to all of us in the labour movement to meet that challenge head on.


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This page contains a single entry by Sharon DeSousa published on November 14, 2013 8:29 AM.

Trouble with facts was the previous entry in this blog.

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