Conservatives’ Bill C-525 Is Undemocratic and Unfair

February 11, 2014

Once again the Conservative government is making ordinary working Canadians the target of unbalanced and unfair legislation. New legislation, Bill C-525 clearly favours large corporations by trampling on the rights of Canadian employees to fair pay and treatment at work. Never before in the history of our country has there been such a targeted and deliberate attack by a federal government on the institutions that have made the lives of the 99 per cent of Canadians who work for wages better off. The unilateral and unrelenting destruction of these rights should be a concern to everyone. 

Bill C-525 is just another example in a string of recent attempts to undermine unions and their ability to properly represent their members. C-525 popped up as a Private Member’s Bill put forward by a Conservative backbench MP to amend three important pieces of labour legislation — the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employee & Staff Relations Act and the Public Service Labour Relations Act.

Notwithstanding the fact that tinkering with important legislation that sets the rules for labour relations with hundreds of thousands of workers should not be left to the whims of a party backbencher, Bill C-525 sets the bar so high for employees to choose to belong to a union that if the same rules applied to federal elections, the House of Commons would sit empty.

C-525 aims to make it much more difficult for workers in the federally-regulated sector to join a union – and it would also allow a minority of workers to decertify their union.

The Bill is so undemocratic that it would give employees who don’t even bother to vote in a certification application a say in the outcome. Basically, those who don’t vote would be considered as casting “no” ballots on having a union in their workplace. Essentially, the Conservatives are saying that when it comes to deciding whether to join a union or not, they’ll skew the outcome by considering those who don’t vote at all as a vote against joining the union. And it doesn’t stop there. In a vote on whether to keep their union or decertify, those who don’t bother to vote would be considered as voting in favour of decertification. Does that sound like fair and balanced legislation for all Canadians?  

What is being proposed with Bill C-525 is both undemocratic and unfair. The Bill would make changes to laws that had been painstakingly negotiated by previous governments working together with both unions and employers to achieve balanced and respected workplace regulations. There was no consultation with any of the affected parties prior to the tabling of Bill C-525. What we’re seeing here are purely ideological moves that will disrupt the delicate and critical balance of long-standing labour relations practices in the federal public service and industries that play a key role in Canada’s economy.

Bill C-525 is simply about denying Canadians the right to collective bargaining with their employer — to be able to negotiate a fair deal for their wages and how they will be treated at work. If the Conservatives succeed in weakening unions, we will all be worse off because there is a direct relationship between union membership and a healthy middle class. The decline in real incomes of Canadians that began twenty years ago coincides with the decline in rates of unionization in Canada. That’s bad for the Canadian economy and even the International Monetary Fund acknowledges that the best way for a country to grow its middle class is through union collective bargaining.

The labour movement is not just about decent jobs, it’s about a better life for everyone. Canadians should worry about a government that seems determined to undermine unions and their ability to properly represent their members to the point that it has to stack the deck against them in favour of big business through undemocratic legislation like Bill C-525. What’s next? Will we have to hide our union cards in our shoes when we go to work?