Okay. I think it will be less than that, but we'll see.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and committee, for the opportunity to participate in this important study.
The Canadian LabourWatch Association was founded in the year 2000. Our mandate is to help working Canadians who may not want to become or remain unionized.
We'll address the committee's topic from two vantage points. First, closed tendering is inherently discriminatory and should be brought to an end. Second, taxpayers are not getting the best value for their federal tax dollars that fund any federal, provincial, or municipal construction work on which union-free workers, and in some cases unionized workers from certain unions, have been barred by law from working.
It is hard to believe that in a country like Canada in the year 2013, open tendering is not a reality for all of Canada's construction workers, particularly the significant majority of them who are not unionized.
Conservative Prime Minister Diefenbaker's bill of rights was followed by Prime Minister Trudeau's charter. Over the decades, human rights codes have spread across this country. Legislation, such as labour codes, regulating unionization has codified the right to join a union.
The Canada Labour Code and, from a government unionized worker point of view, the Public Service Labour Relations Act have very similar provisions regulating employer conduct when hiring employees. It is simply illegal for an employer to refuse to employ a person because he or she is a union member.
For example, subparagraph 94(3)(a)(i) states in part:
(3) No employer or person acting on behalf of an employer shall (a) refuse to employ or to continue to employ or suspend, transfer, lay off or otherwise discriminate against any person with respect to employment...or any other term or condition of employment...because the person (i) is...a member...of a trade union....
Tendering schemes, funded by all taxpayers, whether unionized or union-free, have the exact opposite outcome. Workers who are union-free are discriminated against in a way workers who are unionized or are union members are not, in the other direction. It is even more shocking that union-free working Canadians who are also taxpayers cannot work on projects they fund as taxpayers simply because they're not unionized.
Canada is now the only nation left on earth that allows forced union membership and forced union dues for non-bargaining purposes, such as politics, social causes, including causes outside of the borders of this country, to be a condition of employment. In Canada, employers and unions can agree to require unionized employees to become and remain members of the union as a condition of employment. Any nation that ever allowed such coercive practices has outlawed them. Many nations never ever allowed them to exist.
Closed tendering, however it is arrived at, is simply a branch of this discriminatory bias in favour of union leaders who have more money and more power. Taxpayers and working Canadians, discriminated against in such a scenario, are the losers. It is intellectually dishonest to say that we believe in rights and freedoms, and that we oppose coercion, bullying, and discrimination, only to turn around and say that a certain class of Canadian need not apply for work.
Canadian human rights cover a range of grounds, from those that come to us by birth—the colour of our skin or our national origin—to those that, arguably, are a choice, such as marital status or religion. Closed tendering is the equivalent of saying, “Sorry, because you're not single, or because you're not married, or you're not a member of any religion or you're not a member of a certain religion, you cannot work at certain job sites.”
The solution is very simple. Require that federal tax dollars funding construction work be open to any employer regardless of the unionization status of its employees.
I will now turn to the second area I wish to focus on, value for dollars.
As far as I know, 2003 is the last time the Canadian Labour Congress made its research on attitudes to unionization public. While they claim some pockets of what they saw as positive news and attitudes of unionized employees toward union leaders, they wrote as follows: However, private sector union members have registered a significant drop in satisfaction with both national and local leadership. For national leadership, “satisfied” responses have dropped from 73% in 1993 to only 61% today. Views on local leadership among private sector workers have shown an even sharper drop—from 76% a decade ago to 61% today.
Let me reinforce that this is the research of the union-funded Canadian Labour Congress.
Over the years, several labour board chairs across Canada have advised me that the number-one filing before their labour board, year after year after year, is a complaint by unionized Canadians against their union leaders. Because unions, employers, and labour boards find these complaints difficult to deal with, what we have as an outcome is the three most powerful players lined up against the unionized employee and 95% to 99% of unionized employee complaints summarily dismissed by Canada's labour boards.
Hewitt Associates did a presentation at a major human resources conference in 2004 that assessed survey responses from 120,000 employees in Canada. Hewitt analyzed the data based on who was and was not unionized. They split their data into three groups: highly engaged, somewhat engaged, and non-engaged. The highly engaged group dropped from 66% engagement for the union-free to 55% if unionized. Equally telling, non-engaged scores were 13% among unionized respondents but only 6% among union-free, so there was a much smaller quotient of people who were not at all engaged in their work, according to this research of 120,000 Canadian employees.
In 2010, Gallup looked at engagement and productivity in the United States. As with Hewitt's work in Canada, unionized engagement scores were lower. In this U.S. research, they found that the engagement scores were 7 points lower and productivity levels among unionized Americans were 6% lower.
I'm now going to touch on two anecdotal items from my 30 years in the world of human resources and dealing with unions. At conferences attended by union stewards, I have heard, on numerous occasions, a lament that they are tired of protecting poor performers who simply should have been let go. This is also one of the public's perceptions of union leaders, that they protect people who should be let go from their jobs on a performance basis.
The close family relative of this reality is the legion stories from the unionized workplaces where energetic, high-performing new hires are pressured by the longer-serving old guard to slow down. I have lost count of how many times I have heard or read such observations.
Finally, in the world of construction unions in particular, there is a dysfunctional division of work that is anti-productive. It's the “It's not my job” refrain. Building trades leaders are zealous in protecting and fighting over their turf generally, and on job sites specifically. The rigid work demarcations live on from another era that needs to be put behind us. Unions collect money and funds that are used to subsidize unionized employers whose bids are higher, in part because of these lower productivity levels, lower engagement levels, and lower excellence levels.
These MERFs or STABs, as these funds are known in the industry, exist across this country. Their existence and growth, in many cases funded by the taxpayer, are further proof that taxpayers are on the losing end of these schemes. From my review of the last proceedings of this committee, the inflated price of infrastructure in Canada as a result of these policies arising from publicly available documents has already been discussed.
The City of Hamilton staff report estimates increased costs would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The City of Montreal report noted that costs on overall infrastructure were 30% to 40% more expensive, and on sewer and aqueduct projects 85% more expensive.
All Canadians, including unionized Canadians, deserve better than the status quo.