Employees' Voting Rights Act

An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Public Service Labour Relations Act (certification and revocation — bargaining agent)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.


Blaine Calkins  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill.


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Public Service Labour Relations Act to provide that the certification and decertification of a bargaining agent under these Acts must be achieved by a secret ballot vote-based majority.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


April 9, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
April 9, 2014 Passed That Bill C-525, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Public Service Labour Relations Act (certification and revocation — bargaining agent), as amended, be concurred in at report stage [with a further amendment/with further amendments].
April 9, 2014 Failed That Bill C-525, in Clause 4, be amended (a) by replacing line 14 on page 2 with the following: “employee who claims to represent at least 50%” (b) by replacing line 26 on page 2 with the following: “50% of the employees in the bargaining unit”
April 9, 2014 Failed That Bill C-525 be amended by deleting Clause 1.
Jan. 29, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Employees' Voting Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

April 8th, 2014 / 6:10 p.m.
See context


Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would have been happy to take a few extra minutes to answer questions about my speech on Bill C-525.

I began my speech by talking about a philosophical approach to this bill. I will continue on the subject of the imbalance the government is creating in the labour market.

This imbalance began 30-some years ago. Rather than valuing individual and collective efforts and work, successive Liberal and Conservative governments preferred to disparage the contribution made by members of a large part of our society. These people work for public or private employers, and some are even self-employed. In exchange for wages, they offer their talents, their knowledge, and especially their pride in doing their work and contributing to our society.

Unfortunately, this key contribution to our society is acknowledged less and less. The Conservative government is not helping the situation by supporting this Trojan horse private member's bill, which allows the government to avoid making the significant changes that need to be made.

Luckily, common sense seems to have prevailed to some extent in committee. Amendments were made to this deplorable bill, so it has improved somewhat. However, in addition to making technical changes and changing the rules, this bill would significantly shift the way society views the contributions that workers make to society. Their contributions will become less and less important. Workers are basically considered disposable if they cannot meet the requirements set by a small group of people in our society who hold a great deal of power in their hands.

We must defeat this bill so that we can maintain the relative balance that still exists and that the government, unfortunately, does not seem to be aware of. This bill serves as a major warning, and members must not miss the vote. Government members need to listen to reason and help us defeat this bill.

Employees' Voting Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

April 8th, 2014 / 6:15 p.m.
See context


Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is my last opportunity to speak to my bill. I want to acknowledge all the support I have received for my bill, not only from my caucus colleagues but from across the country where workers have reached out to me and expressed their appreciation for this.

I want to use my time to bust the myths that some of the people on the other side of the House have put forward insofar as claiming that my bill is not doing any service to the country.

I would first like to highlight that I will be talking about the claims that the employees' voting rights act is undemocratic, according to the New Democratic Party. Its members are saying that the rights of employees to vote in a secret ballot is somehow undemocratic. I will address that. There are claims that the employees' voting rights act is unfair, even though it has the exact same process for certification and decertification, whereas in the current legislation it is skewed heavily one way.

Some have complained about the process of using private members' bills to address these kinds of issues, which I would be happy to address, as well as the so-called lack of consultation. Even though we all know that it is a private member's bill, we consult with our constituents all the time. I will discuss that and some of the allegations that the legislative changes I am proposing are unconstitutional. I am more than happy to address some of these concerns.

Let us talk about the allegations that my bill on employees' voting rights is somehow undemocratic. I ask how it can be undemocratic to provide workers with a secret ballot vote. We know PSAC stated at committee that it uses secret ballot votes for internal elections and for collective bargaining agreement ratifications. Every member in this House was elected by a secret ballot vote. Members have not provided an answer to me as to why they think such a process would be considered undemocratic.

If we look at Justice Richards' ruling in the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, where the same type of legislation was brought forward, on page 38 he stated:

...a secret ballot regime does no more than ensure that employees are able to make the choices they see as being best for themselves.

Apparently, in NDP logic, that is undemocratic.

He further stated that, “The secret ballot, after all, is a hallmark of modern democracy”.

I would argue that if it is good enough to serve in this House for members of Parliament to be elected by a secret ballot vote, would anybody not want the same kind of backup in his or her arguments and legitimacy to claim that he or she was put in place through a truly democratic process?

The member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie has mentioned in his comments on March 26 that employers engage in bullying, threats, and blackmail tactics. Anyone who operates under the belief that bullying, threats, or even blackmail is a mutually exclusive act operates under complete and wilful blindness.

If I were to shove a ballot in the face of a voter while I am campaigning, while I am out on the hustings during an election campaign, and say to him or her, “I think it's in your best interest to vote right here, right now, in front of me, and sign this ballot”, the NDP and the Liberal Party of Canada would be absolutely outraged, and the Canadian public would be outraged at that kind of intimidation and electoral process. Yet that is exactly what they are defending on the other side of the House when it comes to union certification.

This process results in the creation of collective bargaining units whereby the union is able to collect union dues, a massive taxation power on the backs of workers. That is how it gets its funds to conduct its business. It is no different from any other process whereby we have taxation and representation. The difference is that there is no mandatory secret ballot. Therefore, it is absolutely ridiculous that the NDP thinks that a card-check system and the power of taxation, of union dues, is completely fine without any check or balance in the interests of workers.

My friend from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie also mentioned that signing a card was an important gesture. I submit that marking an x on a ballot is a more important gesture. I think of Castro, Stalin, and these kinds of people who would say that having one option on a ballot is an important gesture for democracy. I disagree. I think that a yes or no answer in a referendum question as to whether or not one wants to have a collective bargaining agent is a more important gesture than what is being proposed over there.

I would like to move on and talk about the allegations that it is unfair. What I proposed was 50% plus one. It is the same as what is currently there in the card check process, but has been amended at committee. I appreciate the committee's hard work on this, the thoughtful amendments being brought forward by Conservative members of Parliament, amending the bill and amending the current laws so that it will be the same process to enter as to exit a union.

Right now, under the current legislation, a 35% threshold is all that is needed to create a union in the federal jurisdiction. Yet a 50% threshold is what is needed to decertify a collective bargaining regime. Somehow the other side thinks that is fair, 35% to get in and 50% to get out, whereas my legislation would actually make it 45%. I proposed 45%. It has been amended to 40%, so it is 40% to trigger a vote either way, in the certification process and in the decertification process.

That seems fair to me. It is the same way in and out. I do not understand how that could possibly be construed as unfair.

I should note that it is not the job of any government to ensure that union certification is as easy as possible. The Supreme Court of Canada has said that paragraph 2(d) does not mandate any particular model of labour relations. This has been referred to by Justice Richards on page 37 of his ruling.

Currently in Canada, five provinces employ a secret ballot regime and the entire federal jurisdiction in the United States uses secret ballot voting. I am not convinced that using a secret ballot vote makes things unfair; in fact, I believe it solidifies the message of the employee group and actually provides a mandate for the collective bargaining agent, one that is unquestionable.

I would like now to move on to talk about some of the complaints about the process. Some members have complained about the labour laws being changed by private members' bills and that extensive consultation is required with stakeholders.

We are all members of Parliament and our stakeholders are the constituents we represent. What is being proposed by the member for Cape Breton—Canso is apparently to have Unifor and PSAC and FETCO and other big organizations coming to the table, completely bypassing the workers whose fate is actually determined in those kinds of negotiations.

I think it is completely acceptable that private members be able to use their private members' hour. There are already great restrictions on what private members can do. I am hoping that the member for Cape Breton—Canso is not suggesting that somehow private members' business be further restricted from areas of federal jurisdiction or federal legislation. We are all elected as legislators to come here to change, amend, put forth or remove laws that affect Canadians. To suggest somehow that we cannot use the private members' process is simply ridiculous.

When the member for Cape Breton—Canso was at committee, he went after me in his remarks for that process, and quoted FETCO to that effect, as FETCO did suggest that it did not like the process. However, what the member for Cape Breton—Canso conveniently left out was that when Mr. Farrell from FETCO was at committee, he stated his and FETCO's support for a secret ballot vote, and that FETCO would prefer to see a threshold to trigger a vote between 40% and 45%, which is exactly where the amendments are, conveniently left out in the other members' remarks.

There are limited opportunities for a member to bring forward legislation, and I would hope that the member across the way is not advocating limiting the scope of private members' legislation any further than it already is.

I can assure the House that virtually every one of us has received a complaint at some point in time from a constituent regarding labour issues. It is not unreasonable to think that a private member would bring forward these kinds of issues, using their private member's time.

I would like to talk about consultation. The member for Newton—North Delta spoke about the lack of consultation. My private member's bill was tabled on June 5 last year.

A number of unions came to the Hill. They had their lobby days. We did not even start debating my bill until later into the fall. After I tabled my bill, not one of these organizations picked up the phone, knocked on my door, or made any effort to contact me whatsoever. In fact, even during their lobby time here on the Hill, none of them even bothered to come to make their case to me.

I have not been able to address all concerns, but I would like to say before closing that the members of the House ought to know or should know that their task here is to represent their constituents. Poll after poll indicates that since 2003, support across Canada for secret ballot voting has rated between 83% and 89%, with some of the highest results coming from unionized or formerly unionized employees.

The bill is good legislation. It is good public policy. The other side should stand up for democracy and vote in favour of it.

Employees' Voting Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

April 8th, 2014 / 6:25 p.m.
See context


Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to be able to speak briefly to Bill C-525.

I have to say that if the mover of the private member's bill believes that this is so important and is worthwhile, then why does the government not introduce legislation to do what is clearly trying to be done through the backdoor? It is because the government does not have the courage to take its own action and clearly stand up to introduce legislation if it wants to see changes.

Previously we had Bill C-377. Now we have Bill C-525. If government members have some concerns and think that changes need to happen, they should do it the proper way and introduce legislation as a government.

I am happy to have a chance to speak to a bill that according to the government's sponsors is to help empower workers.

Specifically, Bill C-525 would amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, and the Public Service Labour Relations Act to provide that the certification and decertification of a bargaining agent under these acts must be achieved by a vote-based majority through a secret ballot.

Members will forgive my apprehension, but as this bill does come on the heels of the government's last union-busting bill, Bill C-377, I have to wonder again about the real motivations behind it.

Bill C-525 would affect more than 1.2 million employees working as public servants or for an employer under federal jurisdiction. This would include everyone from my own staff to their own staff to the local postmaster to the teller at my local bank or credit union. This means we need to ensure that we get this right, because the bill would impact on real people every day.

The Conservatives have made it clear from the beginning of their term that they are prepared to smash unions at all costs, even when the cost would hurt middle-class workers. Liberals see this as unacceptable. We will be casting our votes in favour of middle-class workers and their families and in favour of fairness and full consultation. If the Conservatives want to change the Labour Code or anything in it, then they should sit down with the partners and discuss those things and make the changes.

My first concern with Bill C-525 is that it proposes to fundamentally change how a union can be formed and dissolved in the federal jurisdiction, yet the evidence shows there is no need, and the major stakeholders have neither asked for this change nor even agreed with it.

Despite the fact that the federal labour relations system is respected and supported by both labour and employers as a result of a genuine and proven consultative and consensus process that has been followed for decades for amending the Labour Code, the bill clearly ignores all the good work that has been done over the years through discussions between labour and the employer as to what changes need to be made. It seems Bill C-525 is again rooted in ideology rather than in sound policy based upon need.

There has been no proven need for the legislation. Those supporting the bill suggest that the rationale for Bill C-525 was a mountain of complaints regarding union coercion of workers. However, according to the Canada Industrial Relations Board, there have only been two founded complaints against unions out of 4,000 decisions in 10 years, so all of this is about just two serious complaints. Even the chairperson of CIRB stated in committee testimony, “It's not a huge problem”.

For labour relations legislation to be effective, it must be developed and implemented by the stakeholders through pre-legislative consultation based upon evidence, not by backdoor government manoeuvring of private members' bills that are, again, based solely upon ideology. This is not the first time we have seen bills that are clearly based upon the ideology of the Conservatives rather than upon substance or science.

Bill C-525 ignores long-established processes and like its sister legislation, Bill C-377, would impose radical changes that are not supported by the stakeholders or by the facts. The result of the legislation would not be labour harmony or efficiency; it would be an upsetting of the balance and stability in labour relations in Canada. This may be what the government is attempting to spark, but it is not in the best interests of employers, workers, or the Canadian economy in the long term.

However, I am not here just to poke holes today. In fact, as someone who has a strong union base in my own constituency, I have seen the positive contributions made to my communities by organized labour over many years. Indeed, this kind of social benevolence is something that has long underscored the labour movement in Canada, and those of us in the Liberal caucus continue to support these middle-class workers and their families very proudly.

Kicking labour around is tantamount to an attack on our communities, and the government should be ashamed of the approach it is taking. Bill C-377 was bad enough, and now Bill C-525 has appeared on the scene. When will it stop?

The bill is neither about union democracy, nor balanced labour relations. Bill C-525 fundamentally changes the way that workers can unionize, without any consultation or support of the stakeholders, and based on zero evidence for its need.

Rather than this kind of knee-jerk approach, the Liberal Party has called for a certification process that, one, allows workers to make free and informed decisions about whether they want to join a union or not, and, two, that has been created through a fair and balanced consensus tripartite process that is based on fact, whereby the changes to be made come from the stakeholders themselves.

Bill C-525 is yet another example of the Conservative government abusing the private members' bill process as backdoor government legislation to promote its ideology, not the views and wishes of the stakeholders or their constituents that would be affected or when the facts at hand show it is not needed.

What are the Conservatives so afraid of? When they tried this very same thing with Bill C-377, their own senators admonished them for doing it. They stymie debate, curtail committee study, and act like their fingerprints are not all over the document.

For example, the human resources committee only studied this for two and a half hours, and almost every witness, including government witnesses, spoke out against the bill. Somehow it sounds a bit like Bill C-23. Specifically, the witnesses that were heard expressed concern over the bill.

George Smith, a labour relations expert, said:

...we are dealing with a private member's bill to amend a significant section of the Canada Labour Code without any view of how this change will impact overall labour relations policy in the federal sector, without any of the necessary due process and public consultation to examine the intended and unintended consequences to such amendments.

Dick Heinen, executive director, Christian Labour Association of Canada, a union that is often viewed as employer friendly, said this about the current card-check system, “It has worked, and I don't know what the problem is. I don't know why we need to change that”.

Elizabeth MacPherson, chair of the Canada Industrial Relations Board, with respect to the effectiveness of the current card-check system, said, “In our opinion, it is working well. With the board having the discretion to decide when a vote must be held, it works”. Why do we need to change it? Why is the government refusing to listen? Is it anything else but clear ideology?

Conservative abuse of this process has been so terrible in the past that the Conservative member for Edmonton—St. Albert resigned from the caucus in disgust. I see that they have learned nothing from the past.

It has already been said that power over a person's wallet is power over their will. That is what Bill C-525 is really all about. As just one example, research has clearly shown that moving from a card-check-based system to a mandatory vote system reduces unionization rates. This is the true motivation behind the bill. Bill C-525 proposes to abolish the card-check model in favour of a mandatory representation vote in all certification applications. It is no more complex than that.

Labour unions have been defenders of employee rights, and they have a long-standing track record of helping our communities in many ways. Of course, unions are not perfect, and there have been many occasions when I have differed with them. However, I do believe in due process. Bill C-525, like its sister bill, Bill C-377, is a partisan attack on middle-class workers and their families. It is wrong, and as the Liberal industry critic, I will be voting for workers and against this sneaky backdoor legislation.

Employees' Voting Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

April 8th, 2014 / 6:35 p.m.
See context


Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge the contributions of all the members who have risen in the House to speak to this bill, whether they are in favour of it or not. It is another show of democracy.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-525, which would amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Public Service Labour Relations Act, specifically with regard to the certification and decertification of the bargaining agent or, more simply put, the union.

This bill would amend the Canada Labour Code and other legislation to provide that the certification and decertification of the union as a bargaining agent under these acts must be achieved by a secret ballot vole-based majority.

However, that already happens. That already happens when the authorities, in other words the Canada Industrial Relations Board, call for it. It seems that is not enough this time. The government does not trust the members of the Canada Industrial Relations Board. Allow me to say a few words as someone who studied at Laval University in Quebec. To sit on the Canada Industrial Relations Board, one has to have certain qualifications, some experience in labour relations, in negotiating collective agreements, and in certification and decertification.

The secret ballot will be mandatory. This is a repudiation of the men and women who have spent most of their working lives maintaining good labour relations and ensuring that there is industrial peace in Canada. Does the government know what it means to have industrial peace in an industrialized country like ours? It means people who go to work, who represent all workers in Canada and ensure that the economy prospers. They co-operate with their employer and with the public service and Parliament. They ensure that we have healthy labour relations and a safe working environment where people are not afraid to get up and go to work in the morning.

I would like to point out that unfortunate actions are often the result of abuse. That is unacceptable in a modern society like ours.

This government seems to be saying that the system that was working before is no longer working. We have been hearing this for some time now. However, the government wants to act undemocratically and violate fundamental human rights and labour rights. As I was saying, a modern society that has respect for the role workers play in its economy must recognize collective bargaining rights and give democracy and protection of labour rights the weight they deserve.

I would remind members that the short title of this bill is the Employees' Voting Rights Act. These rights came out of the evolution of labour law and industrial relations in Canada. Generation after generation of workers fought to give the workforce a greater say and to create a balance of power, in response to employers and working conditions that were often abusive—and sometimes even deadly—as one of our colleagues pointed out recently. I repeat, this is unacceptable in a modern society.

You can bet that my colleagues and I will oppose this bill at report stage and at third reading.

This private member's bill is the sequel to Bill C-377, also a private member's bill. Its purpose is to severely undermine unions by fundamentally changing the certification and decertification process for unions under federal jurisdiction. I want to emphasize that we are talking about unions under federal jurisdiction.

That is where the Canada Labour Code applies. The CLC has been modernized and updated by generations of legislators. This bill goes against that tradition. It attacks a basic human right, the right to freedom of association and expression as embodied by unions. They are the ones who choose it.

This bill will make it harder for workers to unionize and will probably result in more unions being decertified. It will be easier to shut a union down than to start one up. It does not work, it is not fair, it is unacceptable, it is undemocratic, and above all, it is disrespectful.

This Conservative government is in power even though 60% of Canadians voted against it, and the Conservatives govern in what is sometimes a shameful and insolent manner. We can see that today with Bill C-525. It is highly unusual to use a private member's bill to address an issue as important to the exercise of democratic rights as this one.

At present, when a group of employees wants to be represented by a union and decides to form its own union or join an existing union, this union must file an application for certification with the Canada Industrial Relations Board. If the application meets the requirements of the Canada Labour Code, which is rather tedious, complex and demanding, and 50% of the members have signed a card indicating that they want to belong to the union, the union is automatically certified after the cards are checked.

It does not just happen. It takes a lot of hard work and discussions between the group of workers and the bargaining agent, who together decide to create a unit to improve the chances that these workers will have a healthier environment and can enter into agreements with their boss. Collective bargaining allows workers to represent a workforce that contributes to the prosperity of our country. It is a fundamental right in our modern society.

In many workplaces where there is a union, there are lots of projects to improve working conditions, whether in the automotive sector or the textile sector of the past. I say “textile sector of the past” because free trade agreements have unfortunately practically destroyed Canada's textile industry. However, it was because of the economic circumstances, and not because of unions. It is up to the government to put in place laws and infrastructure that allow companies to grow and develop and that encourage economic prosperity.

Thanks to the hard work of the NDP, particularly that of the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie and the member for Newton—North Delta, we managed to get the Conservatives to back down and listen to reason on the most harmful part of this bill. They agreed to amend the worst parts of the bill in committee. At first, the rules put forward by the member for Wetaskiwin stated that anyone who did not participate in the certification vote would be counted as a vote against the creation of the union. However, if it were a question of decertification, anyone absent would be counted as a vote in favour of decertification. That was a brazen and appalling abuse.

Employees' Voting Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

April 8th, 2014 / 6:45 p.m.
See context

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.


Cathy McLeod ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour and for Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to rise in the House today to speak about Bill C-525, employees' voting rights act.

In bringing this bill forward, the member for Wetaskiwin has focused our attention on an important aspect of labour relations in Canada, and that is the process of governing the certification and decertification of unions.

The amendments our government proposed to the bill, after consulting with key stakeholders in committee, would help ensure that unions remain relevant in today's evolving workforce by legitimizing union certification and decertification in federally regulated workplaces.

As members know, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities had the chance to study the bill clause by clause, and of course, we heard from a number of stakeholders, union members, employers, and academics. I think we can all agree that given the fragility of our national economy, it is important that we get this right for employees who are under federal jurisdiction.

After hearing from Canadians who will be affected by the bill, we have proposed a number of common sense changes that strengthen its democratic value and fairness. We have carefully reviewed them, and I believe that the bill is, overall, the better for it.

It is simple. These changes improve the bill's fairness and democratic values while they maintain the principle of the bill that all federally regulated workers should have a democratic right to a free and fair secret ballot vote when deciding whether or not to unionize.

I argue regularly that this is not about the employer and the employee and the union. It is really about the relationships among the employees. This is a very personal decision, and I think they have the right to have that very personal decision reflected through a secret ballot process.

I think it is important to note that the NDP members put forward an amendment at report stage to gut the short title, employees' voting rights act. Why have they done this? They do not want Canadians and the workers they claim to represent to learn that the purpose of the bill is simply to give them the democratic right to a secret ballot vote. Again, we have talked about how important that is for employee relations. There is the union and the employer, but we have to remember the individual relations.

The facts are the facts. We strongly oppose the NDP amendment, because we believe that the short title is exactly what this bill represents, an act that delivers voting rights to employees in federally regulated workplaces.

I would like to take a few minutes to highlight some of the common sense changes we have proposed in this bill.

The employee's voting rights bill would give all employees the opportunity to have their say about certifying or decertifying a union. As things stand today for federally regulated employees, this is not always the case. Again, that is very much undemocratic. Instead, if at least 50% plus one of the employees in a bargaining unit sign membership cards, an application for union certification can be filed automatically. This means that a significant percentage of the people in the bargaining unit may find themselves in a union, whether they like it or not and without the opportunity to have had their views heard.

I fundamentally believe that all employees should have the democratic right to have a free and fair secret ballot when considering whether they want union representation in their workplace. I would like to ask my fellow members if this is too much for workers to ask. Are free and democratic elections not a foundation of Canadian society?

In my humble opinion, not only would it appear to be a reasonable request, it is a basic right. This is exactly what the employees' voting rights bill proposes. It proposes to eliminate automatic certification and would require that a secret ballot vote be held before certifying or decertifying a union.

For a union to be certified or decertified, the bill originally required a majority of employees in the bargaining unit to vote in favour. In cases where members did not vote, for one reason or another, their unused vote would essentially be considered a vote against a union.

We propose instead that the majority be based on the number of ballots actually cast, like in most elections. With this method, uncast ballots would not affect the outcome of the vote.

Canadians take a great deal of pride in the democratic process. The right to vote and the right to be heard go right to the very core of what it means to be Canadian. When we vote, whether it is at the federal, provincial, and municipal level, we do so by secret ballot.

A secret ballot means the freedom to vote the way we want to, to vote for what we think is best for ourselves, our families, and our country. This is the essence of what it means to live in a democratic society.

A decision as important as whether to form a union should represent the employees real intentions. The only way to guarantee that employees are free from pressure and that they can express their honest opinions the way they wish is to give them a free and fair secret ballot voting system. I think I can safely say that just like there are some Canadians who do not wish to reveal who they voted for in an election, there may be some workers who are not comfortable expressing their views on unionization publicly. Their reason for wanting privacy is their own and none of our business. It is as simple as that.

Subtle and sometimes not so subtle forces can come into play in these situations. The opinions and actions of colleagues and others have an effect on how someone might make a choice. If employees do not have the opportunity to vote freely for any reason, the results of a vote cannot truly reflect how the employees feel about union representation, and that is not fair. The concept is one that our government fully supports.

We also suggest lowering the minimum level of employee support required to trigger a certification and decertification from 45% to 40%. This number is much more in line with international conventions and the majority of provincial statutes. This approach is fair and will ultimately establish a level playing field for both supporters and opponents of the union.

I would like to take the opportunity to address the amendments proposed by the NDP during report stage. They propose to raise the card-check threshold required to trigger a vote for decertification from 40% to 50%. In short, the NDP is proposing to undermine one of the basic principles of the bill, which is to ensure that certification and decertification rules are the same so that supporters and opponents of unionization are placed on the same level playing field. These amendments would give a clear and unfair advantage to supporters, and although we are not surprised by this bias, the government simply cannot support such a blatantly unfair proposal by the NDP.

Our government has also proposed amending the date on which the new bill would come into effect. Our amendment states that this bill would come into force six months after receiving royal assent. This would give labour boards sufficient time to make the necessary changes to the regulations and procedures. I believe these amendments have resulted in a stronger bill, one that is more democratic and fair, and one that serves the needs of Canadian workers.

With these amendments, we are pleased to fully back the employees' voting rights act. I would like to encourage all of my hon. colleagues to support the bill, and in doing so they would be showing respect for hard-working Canadians and the principle of democracy. Again, to me, this is an issue about employer relationships and what happens in terms of their workplaces. Being able to have a secret ballot vote is absolutely fundamental.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the hon. member for Wetaskiwin for raising this issue and acting as a champion for the democratic rights of hard-working Canadians.

Employees' Voting Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

April 8th, 2014 / 6:55 p.m.
See context


Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to comment on what my colleague said. One of the things she said was that the government is going to support this bill, which just goes to prove what my other colleagues have been saying about this bill. It is a private members' bill coming in through the back door. That is pretty obvious.

When he was giving his speech, the sponsor of this bill mentioned Castro and Stalin. What I thought of right away was the Prime Minister. Why did I think of him? It was because of what he is trying to do with the unfair elections act. He is trying to turn Canada into countries like Castro's and Stalin's. That is really shameful.

Let me tell the House a little bit about why I want to speak on this bill. I am going to tell members a little of my personal story. I started working at 18-years of age in a mine called Frood Mine. It was not the place where I really wanted to work. I wanted to get closer to home and go to Levack Mine.

I started as an apprentice machinist at 18. Because I started as an apprentice, it was not a job that paid very well. It was as low as it could go. Back in 1968, that was pretty low, so thank God for the union leadership.

The reason I am mentioning this is that when I had been at Frood Mine for about two years, it was scheduled to close. So I said to the guys I was working with that I was going to try to go to Levack. It was closer to my place. The guys said that I did not want to go there. When I asked why, they said that the supervisor there was a supervisor from hell and that I would get fired. I could not believe it.

Eventually, six months later, I ended up in Levack Mine. True enough, I ran into the supervisor from hell. I say that because he treated people in a very special manner. Back then, I was 20 years old. I had quite a bit more hair than I do now, but it was not very long. It was just a little bit long, like it was back in the 1960s. It was not shoulder length. As soon as I ran into this guy, the first minute I met him, he asked where I had been. He said he had been waiting for me all morning. Of course, I was in the first aid room getting my locker, and people were showing me around, where I had to go and what I had to do.

He asked where I had been and said that he had been waiting for me all morning. It surprised me, but I knew that he was the supervisor from hell. He said that my hair was pretty long and that I had to get a haircut if I wanted to work there. I did not think that my hair was very long, but he said to come back the next day with a haircut.

Back in those days, a person could be fired on Friday and be working on Monday. It did not really matter. I said okay. I finished my shift, went home, and went back the next day. I did not have a haircut. I went home that night and washed my hair. I combed everything really nicely because I wanted to impress him.

He said that I had not cut my hair. I said no, so he said I would have to and see the superintendent. I went to see the superintendent. I walked into his office and he asked what I wanted. What was I there for? I told him that my supervisor had sent me because I did not get a haircut and he thought my hair was too long. The superintendent looked at me and said there was nothing wrong with my hair, that I was to go back to work and tell my supervisor to see him.

I went back to the shop and told my supervisor that the superintendent wanted to see him. He was gone for several minutes. From the reports that I got back from the people who worked in that office, it was not pretty.

When he came back to the shop, where I was told to wait for him, if members think our member for Acadie—Bathurst is red when he speaks, they should have seen this guy. He was red. He just could not believe that he had been raked over the coals by the superintendent because of an apprentice. If I did not have a union back then, I would have been fired probably on the first day.

However, this bill is trying to prevent unions from organizing. I belong to the United Steelworkers, local 6500, a great union. It is the same union as the president of the international steelworkers, Leo Gerard, belongs to. He and I grew up in that union. We are just about the same age, and we were stewards together and committee men together. He became the president of the United Steelworkers international. He is a great guy. He gets to work with other steelworkers and unionized people. I became the MP for Nickel Belt, and I have to work with the current government. I cannot believe how lucky that man got.

Union workers do have well-paying jobs and they do contribute to the communities. For example, in Sudbury, if it had not been for the steelworkers, the CAW, and all the good unions, we would not have a cancer centre. It was because of the desire and drive of the union movement that we have a cancer centre in Sudbury. Everybody can use that cancer centre; it is not just for union people. It is just that the union workers helped pay for it. The union workers also support the food bank. Every year, they collect thousands and thousands of dollars for the food bank. They can do that because they have well-paying union jobs.

The goal of the current Conservative government is to drive all the wages as low as possible, to the lowest denominator, so we can all have Walmart salaries and the companies can profit more.

I just want to reiterate the importance of unions. They supply well-paying jobs. They spend their money in the community. They buy in the community. They help people in need. Why would we want to drive their wages down? It just does not make sense. We should encourage more unions in this country, not discourage them. People discouraged unions in the place where Castro was president, and Stalin certainly did not encourage unions.

As the previous member said, the Conservatives are going to support this bill, obviously. It is a private member's bill and they have already decided they are going to support it. So it is just a back-door way of bringing this bill to the House of Commons.

I am going to stop right there. I am not going to support this bill, obviously. I am really proud to be a steelworker and a union member.

Employees' Voting Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

April 8th, 2014 / 7 p.m.
See context


Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I stand to support my colleagues regarding our Conservative members' common-sense amendments to the employees' voting rights act. We believe that the employees' voting rights act deals with important issues that need to be addressed.

As mentioned in budget 2014, our government's top priorities continue to be creating jobs and opportunities for all Canadians. We know the most important way to foster a prosperous economy is through investment in Canadian businesses and Canadian workers. That means supporting businesses that have worldwide recognition, but also the smaller businesses that contribute more than five million Canadian jobs.

The formula for success also includes helping Canadian workers to achieve their greatest potential in the labour market. We made it through the global recession and continue to lead the G7 in job creation and economic growth, and we are on the road to a balanced budget in 2015.

The Canadian economy has more than recouped all the jobs lost during the last recession. Indeed, our government's policies have helped to create one million new jobs in the private sector, jobs that are full time and well paying. I am happy to say we are on the right track, and the future for Canadians looks good.

For example, a study released a few months ago by the employment website monster.ca shows that Canadian workers are among the happiest in the world, and that is something we can be proud of. Our government wants this trend to continue.

This employees' voting rights act is another step in the right direction. It would ensure fair, honest, and democratic workplaces.

Consider this: an online study released a few years ago by Workopolis found that a positive office culture was the most important aspect of a job for Canadians. A key element to creating a positive work environment and job satisfaction is adhering to the rights of workers that are currently in place in Canada.

Freedom of association, which includes the right to form or not form a union, is a fundamental right guaranteed by federal, provincial, and territorial labour laws as well as by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

To help maintain high levels of jobs satisfaction among employees now and in the future, it is important that we all vote today to support the employees' voting rights act and the proposed common sense Conservative amendments.

The amendments would strengthen the democratic values and fairness of the bill, balancing and better protecting the democratic rights of federally regulated employees while maintaining the principle of the bill by ensuring that all federally regulated workers have the right to a free and fair secret ballot vote.

The employees' voting rights act would ensure that employees have the freedom to vote for or against a union, without feeling pressured either way. We have heard from the sponsor of the bill of a number of workers who are not comfortable with the informal card-check certification system for unions, because they do not have the protection of privacy when expressing their opinions.

We need to recognize that not every employee wants to be a part of a union and that it is a choice. We support the equal treatment of voters through a process that is fair and democratic, one that reflects our Canadian values.

The bill originally required a majority of all employees in the bargaining unit to vote for the union to be certified, whether or not all the employees in the unit actually voted. To fix this, we proposed amendments that a decision on union certification or decertification should be based only on a majority of the secret ballot votes that are actually cast.

We also suggest lowering the minimum level of employee support required to trigger a certification vote, from 45% to 40%. This number is more in line with international conventions and the majority of provincial statutes. This approach would establish a fair and level playing field for both supporters and opponents of unions.

The NDP has also put forward amendments that would defeat the purpose of the bill by creating two different criteria: one for supporters of unions and one for those who oppose. Of course, the NDP have not surprised anyone by giving the advantage to supporters of unionization by proposing to raise the card-check threshold to trigger a decertification vote, from 40% to 50%. This proposal by the NDP is blatantly unfair and undemocratic, and would undermine the principle of the bill to create a fair and equal playing field for all parties.

Lastly, if the bill is passed in its original version, the legislation would come into force immediately after receiving royal assent. We feel it is important to allow more time for labour boards to adjust their policies and procedures to reflect the new system. Specifically, we would amend the bill to provide a six-month transitional phase after the date of royal assent.

We know that Canadian workers deserve a fair and honest democratic voting process that allows them to privately choose whether they want to support or oppose a union. Canadians believe in freedom of choice and freedom of association. These values are part of our Constitution and we should honour them in our workplaces.

To conclude, I am proud to support the member for Wetaskiwin and his bill, the employees' voting rights act, with the common sense amendments proposed by our Conservative colleague whom I just mentioned.

I am thankful for the opportunity to speak today.

Motions in amendmentEmployees' Voting Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

March 26th, 2014 / 6:10 p.m.
See context


Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC


Motions No. 1

That Bill C-525 be amended by deleting Clause 1.

Motions No. 2

That Bill C-525, in Clause 4, be amended

(a) by replacing line 14 on page 2 with the following:

“employee who claims to represent at least 50%”

(b) by replacing line 26 on page 2 with the following:

“50% of the employees in the bargaining unit”

Motions No. 3

That Bill C-525, in Clause 5, be amended by replacing line 39 on page 2 with the following:

“the application, at least 50% of the employees”

Motions No. 4

That Bill C-525, in Clause 8, be amended

(a) by replacing line 17 on page 4 with the following:

“sent at least 50% of the employees in the”

(b) by replacing line 28 on page 4 with the following:

“any person claiming to represent at least 50% of”

(c) by replacing line 42 on page 4 with the following:

“50% of the employees in the bargaining unit no”

Motions No. 5

That Bill C-525, in Clause 11, be amended by replacing line 11 on page 6 with the following:

“least 50% of the employees in the bargaining”

Motions No. 6

That Bill C-525, in Clause 12, be amended by replacing line 23 on page 6 with the following:

“subsection 94(1), at least 50% of the employees”

Mr. Speaker, I want to start this debate with a quotation from Mr. Chris Riddell, who in 2001 published an article in the Canadian Journal of Economics entitled “Union Suppression and Certification Success”. He wrote:

Clearly, if a government is opposed to unionization it can accomplish such an agenda through instituting compulsory elections.

That is exactly what the right-wing, ideological, anti-worker, anti-union current government is trying to do with Bill C-525. Bill C-525 would impose a secret ballot every time workers wanted to organize to defend their rights and improve their working and living conditions in general.

We have a card-check system that is simple, works well for the workers, and creates no problems at all.

I will demonstrate to members here tonight that the changes brought forward by the member would create an environment in which it would be much more difficult to institute or create new unions. As such, it would lower living and working conditions for a lot of Canadians. It is sad, because I think the bill would put us much closer to an American model than a Canadian model, which is based on sharing and fairness.

Thanks to pressure by people and workers across the country and strong opposition by the NDP, we managed to get rid of all the ludicrous, absolutely absurd things in Bill C-525.

At first, this bill was so anti-union that people who abstained from voting on whether or not they wanted to have a union at their workplace would be deemed to have voted against forming a union. When it came to dismantling the union, then it was the opposite.

The ideological bias was so inflated that the government felt that those who abstained from voting were voting in favour of dismantling the union. Fortunately, the NDP managed to get the government to listen to reason and the government backed down. We got the government to back down and return to a voting system, which we are not entirely sure is necessary, because it opens the door to shady practices by the employer, including bullying, threats and blackmail.

At least the votes that will be counted are the ones in the box and not the ones of the people who stayed home. The system is like what we do for federal and provincial elections, according to the rules that govern our election to the House.

We avoided catastrophe, but the fact remains that this bill goes against the NDP's principles and values. The NDP wants to help people organize and improve their working conditions, not put up obstacles.

Just now, when I was speaking in English, I said that this bill would put us much closer to an American model and is a departure from the fair and equitable society that has been the trademark of Canada and Quebec for years.

I would like to quote a very interesting document from the Confédération des syndicats nationaux:

Why did the provincial and federal legislators provide in their respective labour codes that the choice of belonging to a union would be determined by signing a membership card instead of by secret ballot? [It is simple.] To avoid having employers interfere by intimidating their employees into giving up on forming a union.

The tools available to the two opposing parties can have a huge impact on the result of a vote by secret ballot. How can a union that is just being formed claim to have tools that are just as effective in winning the vote as those of an employer or a group of employees supported by the employer?

...What is more, will these employees be able to campaign at the workplace without the risk of sanctions being imposed, when those who are anti-union will clearly benefit from the support or at least the supportive tolerance of the employer?

In short, a real pre-vote campaign cannot be run on a level playing field, and its results will not truly represent the individual choice of each employee involved.

I will stop quoting there and say that signing a card is an important gesture. By so doing, workers confirm that they belong to an organization and that they want to be represented by that organization, which will negotiate a contract that will ensure that their rights will be respected and their working conditions will improve. It is a gesture that is just as meaningful and legitimate as a vote by secret ballot.

We are beginning to see here how obstacles can be put in the way of employees who, with good reason, want to organize to negotiate a collective agreement.

It is interesting to read in the CSN document the opinions of those involved on the issue of an employer's potential interference in the certification process.

I would like to read a quote from the May 16, 2005, edition of Le Devoir. Louis Morin, a former Labour Court judge and the former president of the Quebec labour relations commission, stated:

At no time in my career have I ever met a single employer who was happy to hear that a union was being formed. Sometimes they had very strong reactions to this news. Is it more democratic for workers to vote against unionization after the employer has threatened them with the closure of the business, the loss of their rights and so on than for them to have signed a membership card even if they were persistently asked to do so?

This is someone with experience, the former head of the Quebec labour relations commission, who is saying that the card system works well. That is why the NDP believes that we should maintain the existing system. It works well and allows Canada to have a much higher rate of unionization than the United States.

We will see later that this has an economic impact on workers, their families and all communities because it injects money into small businesses, towns, cities and all of our communities.

In a 2001 article entitled Union organizing under neutrality and card check agreements, Adrienne Eaton and Jill Kriesky said that employers used fewer unfair practices when card checks were used.

If a union is not always present in a workplace and the employer uses blackmail or promises promotions or particular positions if people campaign for its side, there is no balance of power. The employee's choice will not be fair and informed, and the employee will not be free from intimidation or threats from the employer. This kind of climate can destroy labour relations and can be emotionally traumatic for the employees.

That is what Adrienne Eaton and Jill Kriesky said. These authors even said 50% fewer employers run an anti-union campaign if card checks are used. When cards are signed, there are fewer unfair practices and anti-union campaigns. Furthermore, the number of successful union certifications seems to rise when there is a card check system and a neutrality agreement with the employer.

I have about eight other experts I could quote about the effects in British Columbia and Ontario. The number of attempts to unionize decreased, and their success rate dropped by 20% to 30% in most cases, even though unions offer a clear advantage.

On average, a unionized worker earns $4.97 more per hour than a non-unionized worker. The benefit is even greater for women. A unionized woman earns $6.65 more per hour than a non-unionized woman. If we were to take that additional money out of the economy, if we were to undo all of the collective bargaining that led to wage increases, the Canadian economy would lose $786 million a week. That is a big deal.

That is why the NDP will continue to push for a healthy work environment as well as for opportunities for all workers to organize and improve their working conditions, since that is how we create a more united, fair and egalitarian society and a better place to live.

Motions in amendmentEmployees' Voting Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

March 26th, 2014 / 6:20 p.m.
See context


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I can understand your confusion on this particular issue in calling for questions and comments, because usually the first person to speak to a private member's bill is the person presenting it or a member from that party, but obviously, because of this legislation, it started off with the opposition because there is no one on the government side who is interested in addressing it. That is probably because it is so egregious. It is probably because during the course of the hearings, we saw nothing to substantiate the necessity of this legislation. I am sure my colleague from the NDP must have been surprised as well to be the first guy on deck to speak to this bill.

Motions in amendmentEmployees' Voting Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

March 26th, 2014 / 6:20 p.m.
See context


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

My colleague was not surprised, Mr. Speaker.

Canadians know that the current government has no respect for due process or evidence-based legislation. Just like the unfair elections act, Bill C-525 is another example of this. We are debating a bill that has no evidence to support it, while anyone and everyone who has a stake in labour relations is saying this is a horrible way to make labour laws in this country.

I believe that for labour laws to work in the interests of both the employees and the employers, they need to be fair and balanced. They also need to be legitimized through a consultative and consensus-based process with stakeholders that is based on real evidence.

From Bill C-377 last year to the changes to the definition of “danger” in last fall's omnibus bill and now with Bill C-525, the government has been using every opportunity and means to pass labour laws that are based on ideology instead of evidence through backdoor means instead of open, transparent, and consultative ones.

The sponsor of this bill, my colleague from Wetaskiwin, has defended the need for this bill on a mountain of complaints regarding union coercion of workers during union certification campaigns.

In his second reading speech he said:

When we hear one person complain about the actions of union organizers, that can be dismissed as a one-off situation. However when we see the mountain of complaints that end up at the labour relations board, it is concerning to me.

In making a statement like that, especially as a reason to change the fundamental right of how workers can organize, one had better be able to back that statement up with fact.

I think many in this chamber would be surprised, even shocked, to know that when the chairperson of the Canada Industrial Relations Board appeared at committee during a study of the bill, she dropped a bombshell: she said that out of the 4,000 decisions that were rendered by that board, there were only two founded complaints of unfair labour practices by unions in the last 10 years. In fact, she said that there were more founded complaints against employers than against unions. In the 4,000 decisions over 10 years, covering 1.25 million workers, there were only two founded complaints.

Although the government said that this is about protecting the rights of workers, we have not heard from one single worker who supports this bill out of the 1.25 million Canadians who are affected. There has not been a phone call, an email, a petition, or a request from a worker or a working group to appear before our committee to say how they had been wronged because of the current legislation, not a single one.

The question that has to be asked and answered is this: why make a fundamental change to the way workers can organize into a union and change the certification process from a card check to a mandatory vote? Maybe it is because research has proven that the effect of such a move would be to lower unionization rates, something the Conservative Party wants implicitly.

I would like to finally talk about the process or, more to the point, the abuse of due process, of which this bill is a perfect example. Although this bill would fundamentally change how workers can organize, only two committee meetings took place to study this; only two meetings. There were two and a half hours of witness testimony, but in those two and a half hours members heard witness after witness, from both labour and employer groups, saying that using private members' bills to make substantial labour legislation changes was not only wrong but would end up hurting labour relations in the long run.

Hassan Yussuff, secretary-treasurer of the CLC, stated:

Amendments should not be made through private members' bills. They should be made with concerted, pre-legislative consultation that engages employers, unions, and government.

How about the other side, FETCO? John Farrell, executive director of the largest federal employer group, stated:

We believe that the use of private members' bills sets the federal jurisdiction on a dangerous course, where, without adequate consultation or support, unnecessary or unworkable proposals come into law, and the balance, which is so important to the stability of labour relations, is upset. We strongly believe that it is not in the long-term best interests of Canadian employers and their employees, and it has the potential to needlessly impact the economy by destabilizing the basic foundation of union-management relations.

That is two very different sides of the fence both saying the same thing, in very powerful statements.

Mr. George Smith, a labour relations expert and practitioner his entire life, stated:

...we are dealing with a private member's bill to amend a significant section of the Canada Labour Code without any view of how this change will impact overall labour relations policy in the federal sector, without any of the necessary due process and public consultation to examine the intended and unintended consequences to such amendments.

Labour law systems are very complex, and the ones that work well are based on a delicate balance that must be respected if and when reforms are made to them. Shortsighted labour reforms driven by ideology rather than evidence and made without a legitimate consultative process are both disruptive and unsustainable.

I and my party may not always agree with labour on everything, but I believe past Liberal governments have used balanced processes and extensive consultation to make labour reforms. This included retaining Andrew Sims and Professor Harry Arthurs to review Part II and Part III of the Canada Labour Code, as well as conducting extensive consultation with public sector unions prior to the introduction of the Public Service Modernization Act in 2003.

Mr. Sims, in his report, said that if labour laws were to be changed, number one, they should be changed because there was a demonstrated need due to the legislation no longer working or serving the public interest, or number two, it should be done on a consensus basis. I ask members of the House whether they believe Bill C-525 meets these criteria or is based on the principles that employers and unions currently respect and agree upon.

Bill C-525 would impact thousands of employers and approximately 1.25 million employees in the federal jurisdiction, people who have a right to ensure we as politicians respect principles inherent in creating fair and balanced labour relation laws for them and their employers. I believe it is incumbent on any government, if it plans to make major labour law reforms, that this process be done with a consultative, up-front approach. I and my party will continue to oppose labour legislation that does not meet this standard. That is why I am proud to say my party will not be supporting this bill.

Motions in amendmentEmployees' Voting Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

March 26th, 2014 / 6:30 p.m.
See context


Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in opposition to Bill C-525, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Public Service Labour Relations Act (certification and revocation — bargaining agent).

There are a number of reasons why I am opposed to it. I fundamentally disagree with the thrust of the bill. I am also opposed to the process that has been used here.

Let us look at what has been happening here this evening. The government side has had no speakers lined up to speak on this bill. If the government members believe in this bill and are so fundamentally supportive of it, surely they should have had the pride and been able to stand up and say whatever they have to say about this legislation.

There are no government members lined up to speak, and at this very critical stage, there is no debate. The opposition is left to speak on this very important issue.

Once again, it adds to the kind of atmosphere that exists here, that the government believes that since it has a majority, it is going to get its way. It does not have to have members debate the opposition or even pay attention, to see if, through debate, the opposition might make us see a different point of view.

This is a private member's bill that makes fundamental changes to the Canada Labour Code. That is not the intention or the purpose of private members' bills. We do not bring about such fundamental changes. However, this is an example of a government that has an agenda and implements its agenda through private members' business. We have seen this over and over again.

Let us take a look at the process. My colleague across the way who brought this private member's bill forward, which is his right, only appeared for half an hour at committee, and after he had finished speaking for his half hour, he did not even wait to hear the witnesses who had been called to speak on this bill. After his half hour, he left.

When he was asked about consultation, his answer was that he had consulted with his constituents. That was a great idea; we should consult with our constituents. However, we have to note that he did not consult with a single major union, and not the Canada Industrial Relations Board, nor the Canadian Bankers Association, amongst hundreds of others that I could mention.

The member's explanation for not consulting any of the stakeholders was, and I am going to quote it because if I paraphrase nobody is going to believe that this is real: “They've made no effort to consult me”.

Well, how would all those stakeholders have known what this member was working on for a private member's bill? Surely when a member is working on a private member's bill, it behooves the member to go out and do some of that consultation, if not at that time then at a different time.

There has also been a sort of urgency from the government to railroad this piece of legislation through this House. I do not see what the hurry was. I have sat on a number of different committees where we have looked at legislation, heard a number of witnesses, and had a lot of time to debate and go through the legislation, clause by clause.

Let us take a look at the process that was used for this bill. There was half an hour for the member who moved the bill to come to talk to us, and two and a half hours, in total, for witnesses. The Speaker should be outraged to find that the NDP could only call three witnesses. We had hundreds of others chomping at the bit, wanting to present their perspective. That was not a thorough way to look at a bill.

Then, after the total of three hours, there was one additional hour to do all the clause-by-clause. When we look at it, this makes a mockery of the legislative process.

Then, after a total of three hours, there was one additional hour to do all the clause-by-clause. When we look at it, this makes a mockery of the legislative process. This makes a mockery of us as parliamentarians who are being very deliberative and listening to the points of view from expert witnesses from all sides and also from listening from the points that we have to make. We have a system that was actually working. I have not heard any petitions. I did not get people rushing into my riding office saying this bill is necessary or our economic system is about to collapse.

The bill will actually accelerate the race to the bottom. It is another example of the government going after decent-paying jobs in this country. People who have decent-paying jobs actually pay taxes. The government uses those taxes to provide services. Yet, once again, instead of listening to experts and people who actually work in the field, instead of looking at the testimony from the department and from the Labour Relations Board that showed the system is working and is not broken—because we know the Conservatives have an allergy to data and to making decisions based on real information—the government is trying to push this legislation through at rapid speed.

Here is a quote from FETCO, the Federally Regulated Employers–Transportation and Communications branch: “FETCO has serious concerns regarding the use of Private Members’ bills to amend the Canada Labour Code”.

It went on to say that the code we have right now, as set out by Parliament, is “to continue and extend its support to labour and management in their co-operative efforts to develop good relations and constructive collective bargaining practices, and deems the development of good industrial relations to be in the best interests of Canada in ensuring a just share of the fruits of progress to all”.

Of course, we have a government that has an ideology that is not quite built to that. FETCO also talks about how these rules are there and that they exist to provide stability and are constructive, and that they actually act as barriers to the economic impact of conflicts that could arise.

Over the years, this preamble has been adhered to by governments of all stripes, both the Conservatives and my friends over there, the Liberals. However, the government, without any real evidence, has decided that it needs to break the Labour Code.

Mr. George Smith talks about the amazing work done by Andrew Sims who chaired the last series of comprehensive changes. By the way, for full disclosure, he is no relative at all. I am not related to Mr. Sims. His panel did an absolutely amazing job. In the words of Andrew Sims, “We want legislation that is sound, enactable, and lasting”.

Instead, what we have here is a government that is going piecemeal at the Labour Code. The Labour Code and industrial relations are very complex and are made up of many components that all fit together. When a private member's bill is used to insert and dissect parts out of the Labour Code, it opens the door for greater instability in our economy.

I am absolutely upset, putting it mildly, that the government has had such lack of process but not only that; it has refused to engage in meaningful debate in the House, which is very disrespectful. On top of that, Conservatives are really out to get at people who are making decent wages in this country and that is quite shameful.

I am proud to be speaking in opposition to the bill.

Motions in amendmentEmployees' Voting Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

March 26th, 2014 / 6:40 p.m.
See context


Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I too am proud to be rising today to speak in opposition to this private member's bill. It is unprecedented in that it changes the Canada Labour Code in ways that only a government should. The Canada Labour Code is one of the crown jewels in the legislative mix the government has at its disposal in that it regulates how labour unions and their employers in the federal sphere do business with one another.

We in Canada have an almost unique system of labour relations. If we look at Europe or other parts of the world, the system of labour relations is not governed the way it is in Canada, and to a certain extent, in the United States. However, what drives that is the balancing act that goes on between employees and employers. It is that balance that is being tampered with here by the member's private member's bill. The balance is such that employers and employees have relatively equal weight, particularly in a unionized workplace, to afford themselves the ability to make sure that their working conditions, their level of pay, and the system by which they are hired, fired, kept on, and moved ahead is fair, reasonable, and acceptable to both sides.

Tampering with the Canada Labour Code through a private member's bill sends a bit of a shock wave through the whole labour and management community in our country.

It is not just labour that is opposed to this. We heard the name Mr. George Smith. I sat opposite Mr. Smith in bargaining on a considerable number of occasions. He was on the opposite side of the fence from us. He too is concerned that this is a backdoor way of making changes that have nothing to do with a problem that has developed in the way Canada's labour relations have been conducted. Instead, it is part of an ideological anti-worker drive that has been carried on by the government since at least I have been here, since at least it has had a majority government.

In my first few days as a member of Parliament, we spent quite a few hours here debating whether the government should force an end to a lockout at Canada Post. The government took the position that it should set the wages of Canada Post workers and should return them to the job with a lower wage than the company had already offered. That in itself is an anti-worker position. However, just Monday of this week, the member for Essex told me that Canada Post is an arm's-length agency and the government has nothing to do with it.

They cannot have it both ways. They cannot say on the one hand that Canada Post has nothing to do with the government and is therefore isolated and untouchable and at the same time, two short years ago, force those workers to take a lower wage increase than they had been offered by their employer.

It is part of the government's ideological bent to be anti-worker in our country. I say ideological, because there is no reason to it. Those workers are workers both in union and non-union workplaces.

Following hard on the heels of the Canada Post debacle, we then had the government ordering Air Canada workers, who had not even started a strike, back to work. There was no strike, yet we had a piece of legislation to order them back and to tamper with their collective agreement as well.

Then we had the Canadian Pacific workers. Canadian Pacific is a private corporation. We had the government interfering in that round of bargaining as well.

The government takes a position over and over again that is anti-workers in this country.

Then we had the spectre of the two of the three omnibus bills we have dealt with so far making changes to how workers and their employers manage their relations with one another. In one case, the government changed the holiday provisions of the labour code in an omnibus bill, which was never referred to in the budget but was in the budget implementation act. All of a sudden we find things appearing that are anti-worker and that change the terms and conditions of how they are to deal with employers. It is done in a sneaky way, with a few lines stuck in an omnibus bill that were never signalled, nor was there any complaint from any employers that there was a problem.

Then we had a reduction in the health and safety provisions of federally regulated workers in the next omnibus bill last year. Was there a big hue and cry from employers that they needed this change? There was none. The government just went ahead and did it. And the Conservatives did it because they are ideologically opposed to workers in this country, which is very dangerous.

We had the President of the Treasury Board trying to create some kind of crisis in the workforce that he represents and is the boss of, with his suggestion that the use of sick leave was somehow out of control. It turned out, when the real data came out, that it was not out of control and that there was not a massive problem of dozens of days of sick leave being used. In fact, his so-called averages had included time not paid for and time on long-term disability. So it made no sense, but it was part of the ideological spectrum that we have seen across the aisle.

Today, he gleefully announced that he had managed to wrest $1.7 billion out of these same workers, who will now have less money in their pockets. The Conservatives somehow have now reduced not just the workers', but also the retirees' future expectations of how much money they will have. It is part of the government's agenda to attack workers, to lower their standard of living, to lower their ability to pay for their heating bill of this winter, to pay for their drugs. All of the things that we expect to be able to pay for, the Conservatives have just said we cannot pay for as much as we used to be able to.

In the EI system, the current government has taken another ideological bent against workers. Already we are aware that only 40% of workers in this country can qualify for EI at any given moment. In addition, with the changes the Conservatives brought forward last year to the EI regulations, workers on EI will now have to accept a job paying 30% less than the job they were fired or laid off from. So we are driving down wages yet again with the EI regulations.

It does not have to be this way. We know that unions in this country contribute immensely to the gross domestic product of this country. If we compare unionized and non-unionized workplaces, generally across the country unionized workplaces pay about $5 an hour more than non-unionized ones, which results in about $730 million, nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars, a week extra into the economy. Where does that money go? It generally goes to purchases, to keeping a family with heat and light and clothing, to managing children's day care. All of these things that ordinary Canadians expect to be able to do, they are better able to do in a unionized workplace than a non-unionized one. Women do even better than that, having an average wage of $6 an hour more as a result of being in a unionized workplace.

So what is this bill attempting to do? It is attempting to make it more difficult to be in a unionized workplace. We have seen lots of statistics showing that is exactly what these changes would do. They would make it more difficult to start a union in the first place, and in workplaces where the unionized workforce decides to remove the union, it would make it easier to remove the union by lowering the threshold at which a vote must be taken.

Those of us who have done this work in the past know that once a vote is taken and that process is commenced, the employer starts to put pressure on the employees. The employer starts to use unfair and illegal intimidation tactics, which I have experienced, pressuring employees to vote against a union. That is precisely why we have card-check certification in this country, to avoid those intimidation and other pressure tactics by employers to force people to turn away from a union. Why do employers not like unions? It is because they know that unions do better for their workers, not because they hurt the workplaces themselves.

I look forward to voting against this bill when it comes up for a vote.

Motions in amendmentEmployees' Voting Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

March 26th, 2014 / 6:50 p.m.
See context


Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of many people who would have liked to speak to this bill. I will try to use my time wisely tonight to share with the House both my point of view and that of a union that is close to my heart. I am fortunate to be the NDP deputy critic for public safety. It being such a large file, one that includes police services, the RCMP and federal penitentiaries, I have the opportunity to meet exceptional people who work day in and day out to keep us safe. I salute them.

I salute the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, the UCCO-SACC, which does outstanding work every day to protect us and to make our communities, our cities and our towns safe. Their work is incredibly important for public safety because they ensure that we are safe and that those detained in our prisons are as well. These people put their lives on the line every day. I work closely with them to ensure that their voices are heard in Parliament and that we understand what they face on a daily basis.

Until recently, there were three federal penitentiaries in my riding of Laval: the Leclerc Institution, the Montée Saint-François Institution and the Federal Training Centre. Unfortunately, as a result of a Conservative government decision, the Leclerc Institution was shut down last year. We still do not understand why, though, because there was a need for it, especially in light of the implications of Bill C-10, the omnibus bill implemented by that same Conservative government.

These people are incredible workers. I worked closely with Diderot at the Leclerc Institution, who is now at the Federal Training Centre. I often work with Michel and Manon, the union representatives at the Montée Saint-François Institution and the Federal Training Centre. I know that they work hard to keep us safe. A lot happens inside our prisons that goes unmentioned. No one talks about double-bunking, which puts the work and lives of our correctional officers in danger every day. No one talks about workers' safety, the new workload resulting from the implementation of Bill C-10, the restrictive measures or the budget cuts in our federal penitentiaries. That affects them greatly.

I would like to point out that “federal penitentiaries” means “federal employees”. Bill C-525 affects them directly. I would like to quote their position on Bill C-525:

Bill C-525: an attack on union democracy. Bill C-525 is the [Conservative] government's attack on the very existence of unions in job sectors governed by the Canada Labour Code, including the federal public service, which governs the job rules for 800,000 Canadian workers. Dressed up as a way to increase union democracy by the party that brought us robocalls, voter suppression, election-expense violations and the Senate scandal, the bill in fact does exactly the opposite.

I could not agree more with the UCCO-SACC. They go on to say:

[The] Conservative MP [for] Wetaskiwin introduced the so-called Employee’s Voting Rights Act as a private member’s bill...

Important to note is the fact that private member’s bills are not subject to constitutional verification by Justice department lawyers—as are government bills—to see if they conform to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is no doubt one reason why the [Conservative] government prefers to introduce oppressive legislation of this sort via private member’s bills.

In the case of Bill C-525, [the Conservative government] is attacking our fundamental right of association by making certification of new unions much more difficult, and conversely, the decertification of existing unions much easier.

The bill does so by adding another, unnecessary, step to the tried-and-true method of the card-check system, which opens the process up to employer intimidation. The government’s anti-democratic habits come to the fore in this part of Bill C-525. It will only require a minority of members (45%) to initiate a decertification vote overseen by the Canada Labour Board, which, you will recall from a previous tract, will now be politicized under Bill C-4.

Incredibly, Bill C-525 flies in the face of basic democratic principles by requiring that 50% plus one of all employees [and I would like to add that the principle of 50% plus one forms the very foundation of our society in our electoral system], not just those who participate in the ballot, vote in favour of the union. In other words, those who choose not to vote, or who are unable to vote, would be counted as votes against the union in certification or decertification votes.

It is incredible to think that a piece of legislation would determine the meaning of the votes of people who do not vote or who cannot be present to vote for some reason or another. In a federal, provincial or municipal election, when someone does not vote, it does not mean that he or she is voting for someone; it simply means that he or she did not vote. This decision is appalling. My quote continues:

Those who are ill, vacationing or have family emergencies may be in favour of having a union, but will be considered as No votes.

This legislation is only one part of a series of attacks by the [Conservative] government intended to weaken the labour movement and the ability of workers to organize themselves in their workplace. The process of signing membership cards is the best way to protect workers from the pressure tactics of some employers. To impose a vote is to open the door to threats and intimidation. Studies have demonstrated that the government’s proposed process leads to a 10% to 20% decrease in union membership where it has been adopted.

I would like to thank all UCCO-SACC members across Canada. I would especially like to thank the Laval members, whom I know very well: union representatives Manon and Michel. They are doing an incredible job of standing up for workers' rights and the safety of their workplace.

All three of us talked about this at length. I know that they strongly oppose this bill. I am proud to be their voice in the House today. It is incredible to think that a government like the one opposite, which constantly says it wants to protect our communities, is not helping the workers in federal penitentiaries. That is ridiculous.

I am going to talk about more than just the fact that this is going to affect conditions for unions in federal detention centres. Bill C-525 touches on other aspects. I would like to cite some statistics for my colleagues opposite that might change their minds. Perhaps they will vote against Bill C-525.

Better wages negotiated by unions inject approximately $786 million into the Canadian economy every week. That is a lot of money. If we have so much money pouring into the economy, it is because of workers who got together and decided to form a union. I would like to thank them today.

Furthermore, as a woman, I am proud to say that unionized women make $6.65 more per hour than non-unionized women. That is huge.

I know that my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie wanted to talk about the World Bank, but unfortunately did not have the time to do so in his speech. Therefore, in closing, I will talk briefly about the World Bank and its views on unions.

The World Bank has pointed out the positive role unions play in domestic economies. In a 2002 document based on more than 1,000 studies of the impact of unions on domestic economies, the World Bank found that a high rate of unionization led to greater income equality, lower unemployment and inflation, higher productivity and a quicker response to economic downturns.

We should all vote against Bill C-525, which is clearly an insult to workers' rights.

Motions in amendmentEmployees' Voting Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

March 26th, 2014 / 7 p.m.
See context


Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is no secret that I am not particularly pleased to rise and speak to Bill C-525, but it is an honour to do so.

I want to start by paying tribute to the wonderful work done by my three colleagues: the member for Newton—North Delta, the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek and the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie. They put in a valiant effort under some particularly unfavourable conditions.

Fortunately, though, this out-of-touch bill was so flawed that all of the members of the committee had to listen to reason, make some logical changes and eliminate some obvious absurdities.

Motions in amendmentEmployees' Voting Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

March 26th, 2014 / 7:05 p.m.
See context


Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, the only thing about this bill that I am somewhat satisfied with is the title. For once, the title actually reflects the content of the bill. Indeed, this bill seeks to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Public Service Labour Relations Act.

However, although I derive a small amount of satisfaction from the bill's title, the rest of the bill is unacceptable, particularly since it is completely hypocritical for the government to try to pass this legislation in the form of a private member's bill. This is comparable to what we saw in 2010, when some little-known Conservative member from western Canada sought to exclude long guns from the firearms registry by introducing a bogus private member's bill. Once the government got its majority, it used a government bill to make this sort of amendment.

At the time, to me that was a great cause for indignation. I had even written an op-ed piece in the media as an NDP candidate in the previous two elections. I was upset that analysts, who are supposed to know a thing or two about politics, were pushing the late Jack Layton to take a stand and have someone force people to vote along party lines on a private member's bill, in complete disregard for the traditions of this House and the parliamentary system we have inherited.

Fortunately, my former leader, Jack, showed leadership and allowed a free vote. He also managed to convince a number of my colleagues to change the way they had voted at previous stages in order to defeat that bill. I have such a great memory of that and, in fact, I would like to pay tribute to my late leader in that regard.

I would like to talk about something else that this bill affects. The changes to the rules that apply to the Labour Code, union membership and how unions operate are going to skew the rules and even give an undue advantage to certain players in our economic environment.

I had the honour of serving on the Standing Committee on International Trade and the Standing Committee on Finance. I can attest to the fact that the market always works. It is important to understand the conditions under which it works and how the usual market trends shift when there are no rules and we allow the players to act as they see fit. This usual trend was easy to see in the past. The multi-billionaire, John D. Rockefeller, is a prime example. He almost had a monopoly, the ultimate accomplishment for any economic player who wants to achieve real security.

Unions, governed by fair rules, act as a counterbalance to this concentration of power and the undue influence of a handful of individuals who, even alone, can shift the rules of the game in their favour. In the next five minutes I have, I will talk about my personal experience as a former unionized worker, and a non-unionized worker, in both the public and private sectors.