Furor in Manitoba over a new labour law

Restores card-check unions

Despite bitter opposition from a coalition of 16,000 employers, Manitoba is proceeding with new labour legislation which makes union organizing simpler.

Bill 44, which caused a ruckus as the province’s legislature wound down this summer, would re-instate “card-check” certification to the province.

Under that system, unionization is automatic, without a vote by workers, if at least 65 per cent of the proposed bargaining unit signs union cards.

Manitoba is now run by a labour-friendly NDP government. Their predecessor Tories removed card-check certification, which exists in several other provinces, four years ago.

The other especially controversial aspect of the bill is that it establishes binding arbitration where either side in a strike or lockout requests it after 60 days of work stoppage.

Employer opposition to this aspect is somewhat perplexing. Union strategists usually say that they think binding arbitration works against their interests, taking away their leverage to keep production at a standstill.

The head of the Manitoba Federation of Labour has offered a bold compromise to the employers’ lobby. Federation president Rob Hilliard says that he would support votes on certification, so long as they took place every two years.

But this has failed to mollify the business lobby, which, in opposing the amendments, is apparently bent on making a broader political statement.

The lobby suggests that unions are working the strings of Premier Gary Doer’s government.

They point to the fact that the proposed amendments to the Labour Relations Act were not in Doer’s election platform, and to the fact that he once headed Manitoba’s public service union.

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