On June 5th, Conservative MP Blaine Calkins for Wetaskiwin (Alberta) introduced Bill C-525, an Act to change the certification and revocation sections of the Canada Labour Code, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Parliamentary Employees Staff Relations Act.
The purpose of the bill is to remove the possibility of automatic certification of bargaining units, often referred to as “card check.” These proposed changes to existing federal legislation would put in place the highest barriers to unionization in the country. It is another attack from the Conservatives against the labour rights of hard working Canadians.
The bill is masked as an attempt to provide workers with a choice in whether or not to join a union, but in reality, it is a further attempt to dismantle the rights of workers to join a union.
Card check – which involves workers signing union cards to become certified – ensures that workers who want to unionize can do so without fear of intimidation and reprisal from employer’s who are against the formation of unions.
Not only does this Bill remove card check–it makes it much more difficult for workers to get a vote on certification (up to 45% from 35%). Worse, to win a vote, the union needs support from the majority of the bargaining unit, not the majority of ballots cast. It means that anyone who does not vote is deemed opposed to the union.
The Bill also changes the rules for decertification – if 45% or more members of the bargaining unit apply for revocation, a mandatory vote is called. For the unit to remain unionized, the majority of employees in the bargaining unit have to vote in favour of continued representation. That means that all no-shows are counted against the union.
This Bill stacks the deck against workers who wish to be represented by a union.
The Conservative Party never campaigned on this issue, nor have Prime Minister Stephen Harper or Lisa Raitt, the Minister of Labour, ever mentioned that this was a policy change the government was considering. Furthermore, never have changes to the Canada Labour Code, which is intended to facilitate employer-union relations, been brought forward without formally consulting first with both employers and unions.
As a clear indication of the hypocrisy behind this Bill, the Conservative Party would of course never have been elected to a majority if these rules were in force in federal elections. In fact, very few MPs, including MP Blaine Calkins the sponsor of the bill, would have been voted in if the requirement was to get support from 50% plus one of all eligible voters.
The only organization that has been actively promoting these changes is Merit Canada, whose sole existence as an employer lobby group is to advocate for an end to unions in the construction industry. Merit Canada does not represent workers, they represent big construction companies.
PSAC challenges the Prime Minister and the Minister of Labour to denounce this anti-worker Bill in the House of Commons, to confirm that it is not a government Bill, and commit to voting against it.