Saturday, 22 December 2007

Yes Goldilocks - Saskatchewan's laws will be the WORST in Canada

Leader-Post financial editor, Bruce Johnstone appears to be ready to accept the arguments of the Minister of Advanced Education, Employment and Labour on the scope and ramifications of the Sask. Party's new anti-labour legislation without having had the benefit of a discussion with someone who may have a different point of view. His opinion column entitled: "Goldilocks would like new labour legislation" appears in the Saturday, Dec. 22 issue.

I quite like Mr. Johnstone, he is a very pleasant man, and I've always enjoyed our chats. I look forward to the opportunity to sit down with him soon and have a more comprehensive dialogue about these matters.

I can assure Mr. Johnstone, without fear of exaggeration, that the legislative changes (as written) proposed by the Sask. Party government will in fact transform Saskatchewan's laws respecting "union certification", "employer communication" and "essential services" into the category of the worst or tied-for-worst provisions in Canada.

I'll touch on just a couple of items in this post to clear up some of the questions or points raised by Mr. Johnstone in his article:

1. All other jurisdictions in Canada have some form of "essential services" legislation. Actually, the jury is still out on Nova Scotia - despite broad-based public opposition, the conservative government of Rodney MacDonald tabled legislation to strip away certain health-care workers right to strike (i.e. essential services). The opposition Liberals and NDP in the Nova Scotia legislature do not support the Bill, and subsequently the minority governing Conservatives have refused to put the Bill to a vote - so apparently the Bill will die on the order paper. As a result, there is no essential services legislation in Nova Scotia - see this CBC report.

As for other jurisdications - some have accompanying "anti-scab" legislation, some have other mitigating legislation. Many jurisdictions engaged in broad based, comprehensive and respectful consultations, especially with the people who will be affected. And (I believe) NONE have legislation with such wide and sweeping powers that may effectively allow a "Cabinet" to designate every worker in the province (public or private) as an essential service worker. See Section 2 (i) (xi) and Section 21 (c) of Bill 5 - what do these mean? (And that's just one question - there are others, many, many others).

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court of Canada decision respecting HEU BC, active discussion is occuring across the county regarding potential Charter challenges of other existing "essential services" legislation.

2. Saskatchewan's legislation allows a certification vote to be triggered at 25% support. This is a moot point - because the practical application of the law is that unions in Saskatchewan rarely (if ever) apply to the LRB for a certification vote with support that low. So if the Sask. Party wanted to put the "trigger percentage" in the middle of the pack - they should have done that. They haven't - they have set it at the highest level of any other jurisdiction in Canada. A mid-point trigger would be 35 or 40% not 45%. See Bill 6.

Further, there are a number of legal questions that arise with respect to what constitutes majority support (i.e. 50% plus one "of those voting", or 50% plus one of "all eligible voters"), and where and how the definition of quorum is established for the purposes of certification votes. The Premier and the Minister have actually said things about this that directly contradict each other. Which one is accurate?

And how is it, that moving from a system that allows for an "automatic certification process based on card support" (which, by the way, is in place in the majority of jurisdictions in this country - 6 out of 11) to one that doesn't (which is in place in the minority of jursidictions in this country - 5 out of 11) is being competitive and consistent with other provinces?

In closing, what other jurisdictions in Canada confer upon an employer the ability to legally interfere with an employee's constitutional protection under the Freedom of Association provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights? The Supreme Court of Canada is clear - given the acknowledged power imbalance that exists between a worker and an employer, it is no business of an employer whether or not an employee wishes to be a member of a union. The employers "opinion" in the matter is not required, justified, nor warranted.

A few years ago I signed up a worker to a union in Westlock, Alberta. During that process he said to me: "My employer is my employer, he's not my mother."

Workers have no legislated right or entitlement to interfere in an employer's decision to join a "Business Association" or a "Chamber of Commerce". Why is the reverse necessary? Democratic Workplaces, Fair and Balanced Labour Laws - Indeed!

Season's Greetings and Best Wishes for the New Year. Give me a call Bruce, and we can go for a coffee, it's on me.


Unknown said...

Why is Unions have such an issue with a businesses constiutional right to freedom of expression? Wal-mart's fight to express it's side of the story is a prime example. The bias of the Labour Board is very appearant.

Larry, two wrongs do not make a right. Using stretched truths and flawed processes to balance perceived inequalities is not exactly progress. You claim Unions are democratic organizations, yet the politics that occur within them are as crooked, dirty, and skewed as it is in the rest of open society. I've been 'on the inside', and I reject the entire union system now. Its time the pendulum swung back to center.

Unknown said...

I guess if you could trust businesses you could then possibly have them tell their side of the story, but the problem is that they lie, over and over again.

If business would have the total freedom that they would like, the workers wouldn't have any rights and have no one to stand up for them - oh yea that is a dictatorship isn't it - is that what our new govenmant represents - time will tell won't it?

Every worker must remember that businesses are greedy and don't give a rats a@# about workers.

Remember it is businesses fault that we have inflation and that is why workers need raises in the first place. If products don't increase in price, we wouldn't need raises - then we could survive only on "merit" increases.

Thank god for unions and the associations that stand up for them.

Keep fighting for us Larry, we are behind you 150%.

Merry Christmas

Richard_Cranium said...

I'm with you Paul. In my early years as a union member (first one) and a shop steward, I was very excited about the union movement and what it could mean to our members. Less than a year in, I quit because of the exact things you outlined, and from that point on realized what harm the unions are doing, not just to their companies, but to their people. My sore points are promotion based on time on, rather than merit and ability. Second one is that those who excell can not be rewarded in any way shape or form, or you will get a stack of grievences from the "less than ambitious" ones. Nothing retards progress and production like a union can and will sometiimes do. I could ramble on for pages on the inefficiencies and examples of retarded production, but I am sure most of us honestly know of a few whether or not you are a union member.

Unknown said...

Indeed. ...and why can we not get some real rights for non-union employees in Canada.

places like WalMart, Money Mart, McDonalds and many more--it should be mandatory that they are certified in order to operate. Or, expand Labour Code rights to non-union sectors.