Quebec's unionization model 'an anomaly': MEI

National Assembly holding hearings on updating Labour Code

The Quebec unionization model is an anomaly when compared to most free and democratic societies, including the 47 countries of the Council of Europe, according to a paper by the Montreal Economic Institute (MEI).

The National Assembly is holding hearings on updating the provisions of the Labour Code concerning replacement workers. And workers’ freedom of choice should be foremost in their minds, said the Economic Note. While the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes freedom of association as a basic right, it also says “no one may be compelled to belong to an association.”

In Quebec, however, this freedom is violated by the unionization model, said Louis Fortin, co-author of the paper and a certified industrial relations consultant and McGill University lecturer in industrial relations.

"It is worrisome, to say the least, that a worker who has never had the chance to decide democratically on the formation of a union through a secret ballot vote is forced to pay union dues and belong to that union under penalty of losing his or her job."

Workers are not forced to pay union dues for purposes other than collective bargaining in Europe or in the United States but in Quebec, the Labour Code makes no distinction and requires employees to finance all of their union's activities, including political and ideological activities, said the paper.

"For example, the FTQ [Quebec Workers Federation] decided in 2003 to campaign openly against a provincial political party using money collected from its members, some of whom very likely were supporters of that same party," said Michel Kelly-Gagnon, co-author of The Quebec Unionization Model: Correcting the Anomaly and president and CEO of the MEI.

In addition, 67 per cent of Quebecers believe union membership should not be compulsory, said the paper.

"When we look at the way things work elsewhere in the world, when we listen to workers whose rights are being violated, we must face facts: the Labour Code must be revised down to its very foundations, rather than merely modifying the definition of replacement workers," said Kelly-Gagnon.

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