Canadian Unions Celebrate Legislative Gains

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Victories don’t come easy or often when people try to fight back against a national government’s attacks on organized labour.

By David Hogben

Victories don’t come easy or often when people try to fight back against a national government’s attacks on organized labour.

So, Canadian workers had good reason to celebrate in June when the federal Liberal government reversed laws attacking labour’s rights to organize and function.

And, there was even more reason to celebrate when Canada finally signed on to a decades-old international agreement recognizing those fundamental rights to organize and bargain.

“Trudeau Number Two did a real courageous thing. He said that the Canadian government supports collective bargaining, that collective bargaining is worth us entering into a treaty for,” said Bob Blakely, Canada’s Building Trades Unions CEO.

“That is great stuff,” Blakely said after naming each prime minister–including the current prime minister’s father Pierre Trudeau–who failed to commit Canada to the resolution coming from the International Labour Organization convention in June 1949.

The binding treaty guarantees those rights in Canada, something Blakely said, will make organizing easier.

“It ought to increase union density. If union density increases then non-union employers are forced to pay more and offer benefits not unlike what someone gets in a union.”

And when union membership grows, workers’ salaries and benefits improve, for union and non-union workers.

That’s a statement backed up the Organization of Co-operation and Economic Development that demonstrated that more unionized workers result in better wages, a stronger economy, and less inequality.

“The truth is the union sets the benchmark. When the union rate goes up, so does the non-union rate. When the union gets a pension, the non-union guys in the same industry, in the same area, get an RRSP,” Blakely said.

After years of struggle, Canadians were also celebrating the passage of Bill C-4 in June which wiped out two of the most severe attacks Stephen Harper’s Conservative government made against workers.

Bill C-377 attacked unions by ordering them to reveal such massive amounts of financial information that they would have been required to devote huge resources just to obey the law.

Bill C-525 attacked unions’ rights to organize workers, ordering the secret-ballot votes which result in fewer certifications. C-525 made it especially hard to certify workers in workplaces with few employees.

“The purpose of the bill was clearly to make certification of smaller concerns, operations where management was committed to remain non-union, virtually impossible,” Blakely said.

Organizations like the B.C. Building Trades took up the long, hard fight against the former Conservative government’s antilabour agenda when C-377 and C-525 were introduced back in 2014.

At times it seemed unlikely labour could prevail against a national government determined to put workers at a severe disadvantage, but that changed when the Conservatives were defeated and their anti-union laws overturned.

Now, it’s a different world for unions and Canadian workers.

“I think it’s a different environment going forward. I think because it’s a different environment we in the labour movement have an opportunity to grow again, and to grow in a way that maybe we haven’t seen in the past,” Blakely said.

For More Information: 

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(778) 397-2220

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