Thank you very much. It's a real pleasure for me to be here with so many of my colleagues who are obviously interested in one of the most important areas of our work, the welfare of Canadians.
One of the relationships that's very important is our relationship with organized labour, and so we will be talking about Bill C-4 and exactly that, building a stronger relationship with our organized labour movements in Canada.
I'm proud to be here today to present for your consideration Bill C-4, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Income Tax Act. This bill, if passed by Parliament, would repeal Bills C-377 and C-525, both of which have been a detriment to unions and labour organizations.
Bill C-4 helps deliver on our commitment to restore a fair and balanced approach to labour relations in this country, one that balances the rights of unions with the rights of employers. Bill C-377 and Bill C-525, two bills adopted during the last session of the 41st Parliament, upset that balance, and we believe must be repealed. These bills have serious ramifications for workers and unions in Canada. They put unions at a disadvantage. They also bypass the tripartite consultation process involving employers, unions, and governments, a process that has traditionally been used for federal labour relations law reform in Canada and which contributed to stable labour relations in the federal jurisdiction.
Fair, balanced, and evidence-based policies must be developed through real consultation and engagement. Our government believes this is essential for the prosperity of workers and employers, Canadian society, and the economy as a whole. When it comes to labour law reform in the future, we are firmly committed to meaningful engagement with unions, employers, other stakeholders, the provinces, the territories, and the Canadian public.
To make sure the federal labour policy works in the best interest of Canadians, we felt it was our duty to seek the repeal of Bill C-377 and Bill C-525. These bills were a solution in search of a problem. First let me explain what these bills do. I'll start with Bill C-377.
Bill C-377 amended the Income Tax Act to require all labour organizations and labour trusts, including those under provincial jurisdiction, to file detailed financial and other information with the Minister of National Revenue which would then be made publicly available on the CRA website.
This raises significant privacy concerns because it would include detailed information on organizations, assets, and general financial health as well as liabilities. This includes individual transactions over $5,000, the salaries of certain officers, directors, and trustees, as well as time spent by certain personnel on political or non-labour relations activities. Failure to comply with these reporting requirements could result in a fine of $1,000 for each day of non-compliance up to a maximum of $25,000 per year.
In addition, Bill C-377 creates unnecessary red tape for unions that are already financially accountable to their members. Section 110 of the Canada Labour Code requires unions as well as employer organizations to provide financial statements to their members upon request and free of charge. Most provinces have similar requirements in their labour laws, so Bill C-377 duplicates accountability measures that already exist. The bill also puts unions at a disadvantage during the collective bargaining process by giving employers access to key information about unions without being required to reciprocate.
Bill C-377 has tilted the playing field in favour of employers. For example, employers would know how much money the union has in a strike fund for a possible work stoppage and how long they could stay out if it came to a strike; so, the union's most important negotiating lever is undermined. There have also been concerns raised about the constitutionality of Bill C-377, because the objective of the bill could be seen not as taxation, but as the regulation of unions, which is in large part a matter of provincial jurisdiction. Seven provinces spoke out against Bill C-377 for that very reason. Bill C-377 is problematic for many reasons, but if it is inconsistent with the Constitution then that alone should be reason enough to repeal the legislative changes it made.
This brings me to Bill C-525. This bill changed the unions' certification and decertification systems under the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, and the Public Service Labour Relations Act. The bill replaced the existing card check system with a mandatory vote system, despite the fact the old system worked well for decades and there was little pressure to change it. Bill C-525 makes it harder for a union to be certified as a collective bargaining agent, and makes it easier for a bargaining agent to be decertified. Previously, the Canada Labour Code required at least 35% support to trigger a union certification vote. If the organization could show they had the majority's support, they were automatically certified as a bargaining unit. Now under Bill C-525, a party seeking to become a certified bargaining agent faces more difficult odds. To be certified as a bargaining agent, they need to demonstrate the support of at least 40% of the employees and must proceed to a certification vote in all cases, even if majority support is expressed. Previously, decertification was possible if the party seeking the revocation of the unit certification demonstrated majority support. Now representation votes must be conducted in all cases when at least 40% support for decertification is demonstrated.
When we asked stakeholders what they thought of the new certification rules, many said the previous card check system not only was faster and more efficient, but it was also more likely to be free of employer interference. Some have suggested that moving away from the mandatory vote system and reverting to a card check system is undemocratic. Statistics show that from 2004 to 2014 the Canada Industrial Relations Board dealt with 23 cases involving allegations of intimidation or coercion during an organizing campaign, and only six were upheld. That's six cases in 10 years. Of these six cases, four involved intimidation and coercion by an employer. The other two were situations where two unions were competing to represent the same group of employees, and one union made allegations against the other. The card check system is a perfectly democratic way of gauging support as it ensures that an absolute majority of employees support the union, not just those who come out and vote. In addition, the Canada Industrial Relations Board and the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board can order a vote if there are doubts about employees' support for unionization. A union will not be certified unless the labour board is satisfied that there is support for it by a majority of employees.
By repealing Bill C-377 and Bill C-525, our government would restore a fair and balanced approach to labour relations in Canada. Successful collective bargaining and fairness in the employer-employee relationship are at the foundation of our economy. They provide stability and predictability in the labour force, two vital elements of a strong economy. To put it simply, good labour relations are good for everyone. The issue is simple: Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 diminish and weaken Canada's labour movement.
Bill C-4 would help return balance to labour relations and restore positive relations with provinces and territories. Our government strongly believes that Bill C-4 should be passed. I look forward to the committee's review of this important piece of legislation.