Private member’s bill from Tory backbencher would require mandatory secret votes for union certification, decertification
A federal Conservative backbencher MP has introduced a private member’s bill that would call for a mandatory secret vote when certifying or decertifying a union.
Blaine Calkins, the representative for the Alberta riding of Wetaskiwin, introduced the bill in the House of Commons on June 5.
“Bill C-525 would provide necessary amendments to the certification and decertification of a bargaining agent by way of a mandatory secret ballot vote based on a majority,” he said. “For far too long the federal legislation has lagged behind that of our provincial counterparts, and workers deserve the right to have a secret ballot vote to decide who represents them at the bargaining table.”
Private member’s bills rarely become law, but unions are already crying foul over the proposed changes.
Ken Lewenza, national president of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union, said the proposed changes would “grotesquely deform” labour relations in the federally regulated sector of the economy.
The bill would create a double standard, he said, making it harder for unions to organize while at the same time making it easier to remove unions.
“At present, labour boards in the federal sector can certify unions as bargaining agents based on written evidence of majority support, usually in the form of signed membership cards, and have the discretion to hold votes in appropriate cases to ensure that unions have majority support,” the CAW said in a press release.
It said the law would require a union seeking to represent a new group of employees to first have written evidence of support from 45 per cent of that group (up from 35 per cent), and then receive votes from at least 50 per cent of all the workers in that group, not just those casting ballots.
“If this same distorted standard of democracy were applied to federal MPs, there would not be a single Conservative sitting in the House of Commons today,” said Lewenza. “There is no MP in Canada who was elected by over 50 per cent of the voting age adults in their riding. Why on earth should this test apply to unions, but not MPs?”
The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) said 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 said in a press release. “It is another attack from the Conservatives against the labour rights of hard working Canadians.”
It decried the 50 per cent rule, saying no-shows would be counted as votes against unionization.
“Essentially, this bill stacks the deck against workers who wish to be represented by a union,” said PSAC.