Canadians have a constitutional right to join a union. There is no legal (and I would argue moral) ambiguity about the place of unions in Canada.
Conservative governments who can't rewrite the constitution to take that right away will use underhanded tactics to rob Canadians of their rights at work.
For the latest example of conservative politicians working hard to undermine constitutional rights, just look to Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister.
Under the current law in Manitoba, workers who want the protection and collective voice of a union can either collect signed cards from a super-majority (65 per cent) of their co-workers or collect cards from only 40 per cent to trigger a formal vote. In cases where workers face aggressive managers, they will often choose the union certification via a super-majority of signed cards, rather than let the employer intimidate workers during the lead up to a vote.
There is no reason to make it harder for Manitoba's vulnerable workers to unionize.
Unifor has long maintained that even the current laws are not adequate, and has called for the card-based certification of any workplace where more than 50 per cent of workers sign a union card -- not just in Manitoba, but across Canada.
But rather than improve on the current legislation, Pallister wants to make things worse by taking away the super-majority option for workers forming a union. Tabled last week, Manitoba's Bill 7 eliminates the option for workers to form a union with a super-majority of cards. If Bill 7 passes, the only path to unionization in Manitoba will be the drawn out process of a formal vote in which workers could be exposed to harassment and threats from the boss in the lead up to a vote.
There is no reason to make it harder for Manitoba's vulnerable workers to unionize. Not only is it a constitutionally enshrined right, it is also good for the province. Union jobs are stable, good-paying jobs that help fuel the economy.
Any small business owner will tell you that the only help they need is a paying customer, and fair salaries contribute to a local customer base. The fact is, unionized workers with stable jobs and better pay make better customers. And all businesses benefit from that.
We live in a consumer economy. Policies such as those being pursued in Manitoba now attack the ability of consumers to feed the economy through their spending. That's what makes the actions of the Pallister government so incredibly short-sighted.
Labour relations will always be fraught with tension between workers' demands for fair wages and employers' quest for higher profits.
Instead, Pallister is choosing an ideological path that will lead to lower unionization rates, a more vulnerable workforce, and a disruption of the labour peace enjoyed by his province for close to 20 years.
The good news is that premiers such as Pallister are increasingly isolated as governments with a more sophisticated and inclusive approach grow their regional economies. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has signaled that he is prepared to reverse Stephen Harper's backwards approach to labour relations and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has ushered in a new era of respect for workers' rights.
And in Ontario, Tim Hudak and his Progressive Conservative Party were soundly defeated in the election of 2014 after running on a draconian anti-labour platform.
Labour relations will always be fraught with tension between workers' demands for fair wages and employers' quest for higher profits. This is nothing new, and part of the dynamic that helps find a balance between the needs of employers and the rights of workers. But this tension can be easily managed by governments that simply respect the bargaining process.
Pallister and his conservative colleagues are trying to rig the game against average workers. But as we've seen before, his strategy is morally bankrupt, legally questionable, and electorally unsustainable.
Unifor will work with other progressive groups in the province to ensure that a full and lively debate is held on the proposed changes -- and that these destructive polices are not implemented.
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