I have subsequently received a copy of a response which has been submitted to the Leader-Post by a reader who sent me a copy. It is reproduced below:
Sent to Editor, Regina Leader Post, Saturday, January 05, 2008
Brian Fergusson’s letter of January 5, 2008 shows a complete lack of understanding of what the Saskatchewan Party’s labour legislation revisions are all about. Mr. Fergusson wonders what is wrong with secret ballots. The answer is simple: not a thing. Unions use secret ballots for all sorts of decisions within the union. It is the administration of a secret ballot vote during a union organizing drive that is at issue. Under the proposed legislation, employers will know which of their employees cast ballots in any union certification vote. Therefore the workers will have been divided into two easily identifiable groups, those who either voted for or against the union and those who most certainly are against the union because they did not vote.
There is a huge incentive for employees to not vote in a system where their potential loyalties can be so easily revealed to their employer. Most people agree that it would unfair if a union were voted in or out solely on the basis of a majority of votes cast. In this case, the legislation requires that a majority of eligible employees must vote in favour of joining the union in order to determine whether union certification is warranted.
If voting can be discouraged in the first place, by an employer who makes it known that "not voting" is the preferred option for its employees, anyone brave enough to show up at the polls will be identified immediately as being a possible union supporter. The new legislation allows employers to "freely communicate" with employees in such cases. It allows employers to "advise" its employees of all the down sides to unionization that the company can dream up, including, as Mr. Fergusson pointed out, warnings about jobs being "lost forever", that a union might provide an "impediment" to competition. How fair is that?
The current system of secret card signing as a method to determine how many employees want a union was devised specifically to prevent employers from finding out which of their employees are potential union supporters. It was enshrined in law because it protects employees from being targeted by employers.
Mr. Fergusson talks about Saskatchewan Federation of Labour President Larry Hubich as if he is a gangster, referring to the people who elected him (by secret ballot!) as "his cronies". I would like to know what we ought to call Mr. Fergusson’s colleagues?
- Gary Schoenfeldt
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Update Jan 11, 2008 - Gary's letter has now been printed (in edited form) in the Leader-Post entitled: Workers could be targeted by employers