Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Workplace Democracy

Today, I sent the following letter to the editor of the Regina Leader-Post:

Dear Editor,

Doug Robertson in his letter to the editor (Regina Leader-Post Nov. 6/07), misrepresents the position of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour respecting the certification provisions of the Saskatchewan Trade Union Act. The Federation absolutely supports the concept of 50 percent plus one representing the majority, and union certification being granted on the basis of achievement of that threshold.

We should have such a system in Canadian politics where before you can be the Prime Minister of this country you would need support of at least 50 percent plus one of the citizens. Following our last election Stephen Harper was placed in the Prime Minister's chair with less than 40% support of the citizenry.

What the SFL is opposed to is the suggestion that a person by signing a union card (in secret from their employer) does not constitute a legitimate declaration of that individual's support for unionization. The suggestion is that following such a declaration, workers should be required to re-affirm their indicated support for unionization through a 2nd "secret" democratic process. The part that Robertson doesn't include is the intervening opportunity for employers to threaten, coerce, intimidate, scare and browbeat employees into changing their minds on their stated intention when they vote in a second ballot.

Perhaps Robertson would support a system that requires a 2nd election, one month after the first - just to make sure citizens made the correct choice.

It is important to point out that the Supreme Court of Canada has acknowledged there is a significant power imbalance between a worker and an employer - with the employer clearly holding the upper hand vis-a-vis the power relationship. And that a worker's Charter Rights related to Freedom of Association need to be protected from undue influence of the employer who holds the upper hand. The Canada Labour Code has identical certification provisions to the Saskatchewan Trade Union Act. I don't hear people like Robertson calling for changes there.

If Robertson, Brad Wall and others were truly interested in workplace democracy they would be calling for a vote in "every" workplace. Every bank, every department store, every restaurant, every hotel, every mine, every mill, and every manufacturing plant - every private sector, every public sector, and every co-operative workplace. But they are not.

Their phony concern for workplace democracy extends only to a very select group. To those who have already made the decision (in secret from their employer) to seek the formation of a union.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I too support the 50 percent plus 1 concept of majority democracy. I understand that is what is required for certification, but if a union is certified and the workers change their mind what is required for votes to de-certify. I would assume it is the same as for certification. If not why not.

Richard_Cranium said...

Good question Larry. What is the process and numbers that need to happen if a disgruntled union wants out. Inquiring minds want to know.

Larry Hubich said...

Thank you for your questions and comments.

Under the Saskatchewan Trade Union Act, certification and/or decertification can be ordered by the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board upon receipt of an application by the affected employees which provides evidence that clearly demonstrates majority support for either.

Majority for the purpose of the Act is 50% plus 1.

Application forms for either process can be downloaded from the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board web-site.

Paul said...

Since you are such a great believer in rights and freedooms, let's see if you leave this link up Larry,

http://www.labourwatch.com/faqs/employee/ca/how-do-i-decertify-a-union.php

The NDP Boogeyman said...

Larry,

You're full of it. I would say there is as much union intimidation in the workplace as there is management intimidation.

The amount of intimidation the union is having on members trying to get them to vote for the NDP is appalling.

The problem with your positions Larry is that they are fundamentally dishonest.

You turn a blind eye to union intimidation and focus on the management end.

Why don't you speak out against all intimidation of workers and admit there is union intimidation as well as management?

Larry Hubich said...

The facts, evidence and case law flowing out of the LRB and the provincial courts does not support what you suggest Boogeyman.

If what you say was even remotely factual the courts and law journals would be full of such cases. They are not.

The current Trade Union Act in Saskatchewan makes what you are suggesting illegal and an unfair labour practice.

Section 11(2)m of the Act states, in part:

"(2) It shall be an unfair labour practice for any employee, trade union or any other person:

(a) to interfere with, restrain, intimidate, threaten or coerce an employee with a view to encouraging or discouraging membership in or activity in or for a labour organization,....."

Further Section 10.2 of the Act states that the LRB can order a union decertified for violating the Trade Union Act, and/or for commiting an unfair labour practice under the act.

Stick to the facts.

I would encourage union members who are being treated as you suggest to seek a remedy under the law, and the act. It is their right, and their responsibility to do so.

I am opposed to violation of the act by any party - employer or union.

I also do accept as fact blanket allegations made without supporting evidence.

The NDP Boogeyman said...

Larry,

Give me a break... Who is going to risk their job and the continual harassment of their union "brothers and sisters" with a lawsuit against a harasser. You tell me with a staright face this problem doesn't exist? That's laughable...

Quote all the laws you want Larry, but until you decide to take off the blinders (which I don't think you have on, you KNOW the truth, or you're the most naive head of a labour organization ever) you won't deal with this problem in any meaningful manner.

Which is exactly why union organizations like yours have become the management they claim to be protecting the rank and file from (which also points to the decrease in union membership over the last decade).

No sense in engaging anyone partaking in wilfull blindness...

But then again that's what you want to happen....

Paul said...

Why not have Unions hold elections every four years as well? Every four years, the Union has to be voted upon by it's members. If the majority do not want the Union, they are decertified.

In fact, why not allow competiton between Unions like we allow competiton between political parties? Unions could compete for members.

Why not open it up to competiton Larry? True democract Larry, wouldn't that be a concept.

David said...

Larry, how do you account for the one way communication that went on between your member unions and the workers during the election? Can employers communicate the same way? Really really weak larry.

Larry Hubich said...

Paul,

Read my comments, I said "every" workplace. Sure, lets have a vote in "every" workplace at a set interval about whether or not the employees want a union. If they say yes - they get one. If they say no - they don't.

Dave,

There is no prohibition against employer communication during organizing drives, and it's not one way. There is a prohibition against "interfering, restraining, intimidating, threatening, or coercing".

Similar definitions of "unfair labour practice" apply to both the union and the employer. see below"

"11(1) It shall be an unfair labour practice for an employer, employer’s agent or any other person acting on behalf of the employer:
(a) in any manner, including by communication, to interfere with, restrain, intimidate, threaten or coerce an employee in the exercise of any right conferred by this Act;"

"11(2) It shall be an unfair labour practice for any employee, trade union or any other person:
(a) to interfere with, restrain, intimidate, threaten or coerce an employee with a view to encouraging or discouraging membership in or activity in or for a labour organization,"

Richard_Cranium said...

Larry, I assume that that blanket vote of all workplaces would contain a decertification option as well as an organizing request. I know of a few trades people who have left their union employers for non union employers because some of the trades pay higher than their union counterparts. Some companies even have a union arm and a non union arm, so they can bid on both union/non union jobs.

Larry Hubich said...

Richard,

I said "every" workplace. You vote yes - you get a union. You vote no - you don't.

And let's tie the process to something like municipal elections - once every three years.

I also know the reason and background for the creation of "spin-off" companies (i.e. union/non-union arms of the same firm).