TORONTO - Ontario's Progressive Conservatives are calling for an overhaul of labour laws to give unions less power in the workplace.
The Tories released their second policy "white paper" Wednesday that says provincial rules should be changed to block the mandatory paycheque deductions of union dues, and give workers the option of not joining a union in workplaces with collective agreements.
Some public sector workers, including teachers, can't opt out of union membership.
These and other changes to the labour system are needed to get unions to "adapt" in an era of flagging manufacturing employment, the paper states.
It points to recent plant closures, including the February closure of a Caterpillar locomotive plant in London, Ont., and its relocation to Indiana, a state which brought in a "right-to-work" law earlier this year barring automatic union dues collection.
The Tory paper says the London shutdown is a sign of the times, with lower-wage and lower-benefit labour pools in the southern U.S. and Mexico scooping up once-secure manufacturing work in the province.
It all requires a realignment of Ontario's labour rules, the paper states.
"It’s time the law is modernized to give Ontario employees more choice and control, and to encourage the kind of flexible workforce Ontario businesses need to be competitive," it reads.
Tory Leader Tim Hudak said in a statement the changes would boost the number of jobs in the province.
“The world has changed, and our economy has changed with it,” Hudak said.
“But the rules governing the workplace, and the way unions are run, have not. It’s time to open up economic opportunities for individual workers, not union bosses."
Reaction to the Tory plan from one of the province's largest union groups came quickly.
It's CEOs, not workers, who would be the real winners under Tories' proposed changes, said Ontario Federation of Labour president Sid Ryan.
“When Hudak calls for a ‘flexible workforce’ what he really means is a low wage and precarious one," the labour leader said in a statement.
The Tory paper also recommends unions be forced to release information on their finances and what they spend money on.
And it calls for workplace insurance, currently exclusively provided by the Workplace Safety Insurance Board for some industries, to be opened up to competition from the private sector.
Rules on how the province and municipal governments put contracts out for tender should also be given a shake-up, the report states, by ending the practice of "closed tendering," which requires contracts to go to companies employing union members.
The 20-page analysis comes after the party's first white paper last month.
That document laid out a plan for a sweeping privatization of Ontario's electricity system.
9. Poland (tie) - 10 attempted murders
As demonstrated by the numerous reports of violations, hostility towards union activity remains commonplace. Undue pressure is often exerted by employers on trade unions and their members. Restrictions on the right tostrike remain excessive.<br> <br> Source: <a href="http://survey.ituc-csi.org/Poland.html" target="_hplink">International Trade Union Confederation</a>
9. Kosovo (tie) - 10 attempted murders
The private sector remains out of reach for trade unions, in spite of the Labour Law that came into force in January 2011, and the Law on Trade Unions adopted in July. Anti-union pressure from employers and inefficient court protection mean that many workers are afraid to join a union, or even to report violations of their rights.<br> <br> Source: <a href="http://survey.ituc-csi.org/Kosovo.html" target="_hplink">International Trade Union Confederation</a>
7. Indonesia (tie) - 2 murders
Two workers were killed in West Papua when police open fire on striking workers at US-owned Freeport McMoran's Grasberg (FMG) gold and copper mine. Several cases of police assault against striking workers and arrest of union leaders were reported. Indonesian domestic workers - working at home and abroad - faced harsh working conditions. In law and in practice, the right to strikeis nearly impossible to exercise.<br> <br> Source: <a href="http://survey.ituc-csi.org/Indonesia.html" target="_hplink">International Trade Union Confederation</a>
7. Honduras (tie) - 2 murders
Trade union membership levels remain very low, company unions predominate and temporary employment and subcontracting are reaching alarming proportions. Teachers are continuing the fight to hold on to their rights and to save their pension institute, the Instituto Nacional de Previsión del Magisterio (INPREMA). The teaching union's very existence will come under greater threat with the proposed Education Law, which seeks to privatise education and to repeal the Teachers' Statute. The conflicts with campesino associations in Bajo Aguán, the attacks and attempts to interfere in or even illegalise teachers' organisations, and the murders of trade unionists, journalists and social leaders are clear signs that Honduras has not yet managed to recover from the break with constitutional rule and that its public institutions are still far from being consolidated.<br> <br> Source: <a href="http://survey.ituc-csi.org/Honduras.html" target="_hplink">International Trade Union Confederation</a>
5. Philippines - 5 murders
It was another tumultuous and tragic year for the trade union movement in the Philippines. Four trade unionists were murdered and one union member was kidnapped and arbitrarily detained. KMU legal counsel, Remigio Saladero, Jr. was once again the target of dubious government criminal charges. Union busting to avoid or destroy unions continued. <br> <br> Source: <a href="http://survey.ituc-csi.org/Philippines.html" target="_hplink">International Trade Union Confederation</a>
4. South Korea (tie) - 6 murders
Police violence and criminal sanctions against strikers continued along with increasing use of law suits claiming huge amounts of damages against strikers and unions. Since the 2008 election of the conservative government, the Korean trade union movement has noted increasing repression and worsening treatment of its members. Employers systematically engage workers on precarious employment contracts specifically to prevent them from forming and joining trade unions. Trade union rights are restricted in the public sector, and amendments to the labour laws in 2010 further restricted union activity.<br> <br> Source: <a href="http://survey.ituc-csi.org/Korea-44-Republic-of.html" target="_hplink">International Trade Union Confederation</a>
4. Palestinian Territories (tie) - 6 murders
The exercise of freedom of association remains very difficult for most Palestinian workers, especially in Gaza. One trade union leader was sacked during 2011, while the executive of another replaced.<br> <br> Source: <a href="http://survey.ituc-csi.org/Palestine.html" target="_hplink">International Trade Union Confederation</a>
3. Brazil - 7 murders
The year 2011 saw major labour disputes in the banking, civil aviation and fertiliser industries. Municipal cemetery worker held important negotiations following a hard-fought labour dispute. Slave-like working conditions still exist and the authorities are keeping up their campaign to track down and prosecute those responsible. Seven rural activists were killed in 2011.<br> <br> Source: <a href="http://survey.ituc-csi.org/Brazil.html" target="_hplink">International Trade Union Confederation</a>
2. Guatemala - 10 murders
Guatemala again stood out in 2011, regrettably, as the Central American country characterised predominantly by human rights violations. The right to life of trade union, rural and indigenous community leaders and human rights defenders continued to be violated. Ten trade unionists were assassinated and there were violations of every kind in municipalities, enterprises and maquilas. The Izabal Banana Workers' Unions (SITRABI) was the hardest hit. Guatemala's employers are very conservative and do not respect the right of workers to freedom of association, collective bargaining and decent work. The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, far from fostering labour rights, is the obedient servant of the national and transnational employers. When there are decisions by the labour courts in favour of the workers, they are not applied.<br> <br> Source: <a href="http://survey.ituc-csi.org/Guatemala.html" target="_hplink">International Trade Union Confederation</a>
1. Colombia - 29 murders, 10 attempted murders
Although some progress has been made, the longstanding violence against the Colombian trade union movement continues to plague the country and trade unionists are still being killed, forcibly disappeared and intimidated. Twenty nine trade unionists were murdered in 2011. While some efforts have been made to investigate these crimes, the majority of the cases reported by trade union organisations remain unsolved. The state clearly lacks the capacity to protect trade union rights. The vice president of the Republic, speaking on behalf of the government, has recognised the scale of the violence, something previous governments have never done.<br> <br> Source: <a href="http://survey.ituc-csi.org/Colombia.html" target="_hplink">International Trade Union Confederation</a>