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.