After years of tireless work by organized labour, progressive political actors, and Canadian workers, legislation to repeal Bills C-377 and C-525 became law in Canada after receiving Royal Assent on June 19th, 2017.
Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Income Tax Act, was one of the first pieces of legislation introduced by the new Liberal government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in early 2016. It marked the fulfillment of one of our party’s most important electoral campaign commitments – to restore fairness and balance to labour relations in Canada.
Canadian labour relations are defined by a balanced, tripartite relationship between labour unions, employers, and government that has always been understood to be sacred. When the previous Conservative government introduced and passed Bills C-377 and C-525, they upended that balanced relationship and made it more difficult for Canadian workers to organize, negotiate collectively, and advocate for safe and fair working conditions.
We know that healthy labour relations directly contribute to economic growth. Independent institutions like the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development have concluded that lower rates of unionization result in stagnating incomes, particularly in the middle class, leading to direct impacts on the growth of our economy and on inequality.
When our government talks about building a strong middle class, we’re talking about ensuring that people can count on good quality jobs and the ability to make a living and support their families. A strong labour movement is critical to a strong middle class.
Bill C-377 was designed to tip the balance in favour of employers. It created unnecessary red tape for unions by putting in place onerous financial reporting obligations. It required labour organizations and labour trusts across Canada to provide detailed financial information to the Canada Revenue Agency, including salaries and assets. This information would then have been made public online. That put unions at a disadvantage when it came to collective bargaining negotiations because employers would have access to union information, such as how much money the union had in its strike fund, while unions were not ever given access to similar employer financial information.
Bill C-525 changed the union certification and decertification rules by replacing the card-check system with a mandatory vote system, making it harder for employees to unionize and easier for unions to be decertified. Canadian workers repeatedly told us that the card check system is faster, more efficient and more likely to be free of employer interference than the mandatory vote system put in place by Bill C-525. The crucial tripartite relationship between government, employers, and workers that preserves healthy labour relations in our country was all but ignored by Bill C-525. Proponents of Bill C-525 initially justified its need based on a “mountain of complaints “regarding union coercion of workers by union advocates during union certification campaigns. This claim was far from the truth. From 2004 to 2014, the Canada Industrial Relations Board dealt with only 23 cases of allegations of intimidation or coercion during an organizing campaign, and only six of these were upheld.
The Conservative approach of disrupting fair and balanced labour relations jeopardizes the Canadian middle class and puts the prosperity of corporations ahead of middle class Canadians. This short sighted approach ignored the fact that a growing economy relies on a strong economy.
The Liberal Party of Canada will continue to promote fair, balanced labour relations in this country, and why we will continue to encourage employers and unions to foster positive relationships with each other. This is our ongoing commitment to all Canadians.