Political Attacks on Labour Continue Unabated

The Federal Government is currently sponsoring a group of anti-union legislation under the guise of Private Member’s Bills.

FIGHT_OF_OUR_LIVES_LOGOC-525 would eliminate ‘card check’ for organizing workplaces under the Canada Labour Code. ‘Card Check’ grants Union Certification if 50%+1 of the prospective Members sign an application. This will allow employers to bribe or intimidate employees during the run-up to a vote.

C-4 would weaken an employee’s right to refuse unsafe work. Only imminent danger would be grounds for refusing work. The Federal Bargaining Agents (Unions) of the National Joint Council sum it up this way:

Bill C-4 undermines the right to collective bargaining, eliminates important human rights protections, and will make every federal workplace less safe for its workers and the Canadians they serve. The Bill was drafted with no consultation with public sector bargaining agents and eliminates labour rights gained over the last fifty years, and severely undermines the ability of federal employees to negotiate on a fair playing field. The Bill gives the federal government’s Treasury Board the unfettered right to determine what constitutes an essential service, which workers are denied the right to strike, and which collective agreements will be decided through arbitration.  The Bill also changes arbitration by limiting the independence of arbitration boards. Bill C-4 gives the Minister of Labour the authority to throw out any unsafe work refusal complaint without investigation, leaving employees who refuse unsafe work open to discipline, including dismissal. If the Minister chooses, an investigation can be undertaken in secret. The impact of these changes to health and safety protection will reach far beyond the federal public service to the 1.2 million private and public sector workers covered by the Canada Labour Code.

C-377 would put onerous reporting obligations on Union, where every expenditure greater than $5,000 would have to be reported and made public. Though this information is already available to Union Members, under this Bill, Union would have to undertake the costly and time consuming task of documenting and reporting everything from pension payments to office supply purchases. This Bill was rejected by the Senate for unfairly targeting Unions while leaving corporations untouched but has been reintroduced this session by the Federal Government.

Some provincial politicians dream of emulating the worst of American Labour law.

Right to Work for Less has been a fact of life in some of the poorest US states, such as Alabama and Louisiana since the 1960s. In the last few years, some of the Rust Belt states, such as Michigan and Indiana have introduced the policy. Under Right to Work for Less, employees are not required to join a union or pay dues in a unionized workplace. Further, the Union is obligated to represent the, though they neither belong to the Union nor pay dues. This strengthens the hand of the employer leading to lower wages and benefits state wide. For those who pay dues, payroll check off is illegal and the Union has to collect the dues form each member individually. Total dues are approximately 30% less and the collecting of dues becomes an expensive proposition. Some politician, especially Tom Hudak, leader of the Conservatives in Ontario, have been especially vocal in proposing this vile medicine for Ontario as unscrupulous employers have moved from Ontario to right to work for less states.

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Workers At The Federal Government Dockyard in Esquimalt Ratify Three Year Deal

The Federal Government Dockyard Trades and Labour Council (West) is a poly-party alliance of 11 separate Unions, representing workers at the Canadian Navy’s west coast base in Esquimalt, BC. The employer is the Treasury Board in Ottawa.

The Federal Government Dockyard Trades and Labour Council (West) negotiating team
Des Rogers, President (center)

Still stinging from the Restraint Act which rolled back a binding arbitration award by 5%, the Trades and Labour Council entered bargaining determined to continue to resist any concessions and win a fair agreement.

Pattern bargaining, where previous settlements in a sector dictate future settlements, meant the end of voluntary severance was preordained. The Trades and Labour Council had successfully stood firm in the previous negotiations against this demand but now the largest Unions in the Public Sector have agreed and there would be no settlement without it. The terms were not as onerous as might be imagined. All previously accumulated voluntary severance was retained and could be paid out now, in the future or half and half. The severance is in weeks so the current pay rate set the actual amount. A small wage allowance of 3/4% came some way to compensate for the loss.
But where the Trades and Labour Council negotiating team came to shine was in the third year wage increase. Eight out of eleven affiliates locals wanted all tradesmen paid the same rate and this was achieved. The wage mandate might be 1½% per year but through reclassification of pay groups the majority of tradesmen will receive a 5.7% increase in the last year as all tradesmen move into the same pay group. Tradesmen already receiving the higher rate will receive a $2,500 bonus.

Improvements to family leave and bereavement pay round out this agreement.

On September 14, the majority of the membership voted in favour of the new agreement.

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Letter from President of Local Lodge 764 (Aveos) to the Prime Minister

click to download pdf file of letter


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Lastest Edition of Northwest News Published

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Court Hearing To Fight Wage Rollback Concludes

Update released by Federal Government Dockyard Trades and Labour Council, Esquimalt, BC

Our constitutional challenge to the Expenditure Restraint Act was heard on April 26- 29, and May 2 in British Columbia Supreme Court before the Justice David Harris. Our counsel, Catherine Boies Parker, argued that the legislation is a breach of freedom of association protected under s. 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Relying on the Health Services case, in which the Supreme Court of Canada struck down legislation which voided the collective agreements of British Columbia health care workers, we argued that voiding the arbitration award and taking compensation off the table for five years constituted a substantial interference with our ability to engage in meaningful collective bargaining, protected by the Charter. We said that while we did not challenge the wage restraint legislation on a going forward basis, reaching back to eliminate the wage adjustment payable as of October 1, 2006 was an unusually intrusive and unjustifiable infringement of our rights.

The government argued that there was no breach of freedom of association and that, even if there was a breach, it was justified under section 1 of the Charter. Section 1 provides that rights can be limited by restrictions which are demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. The government argued that the global economic uncertainty which Canada faced at the time the legislation was enacted justified the curtailment of our rights. They argued that the court should be deferential to the government’s response to a complex economic problem and not second guess the government on its choice of fiscal policies.

In response, we argued that even if wage restraint might generally be justified in these circumstances, the particularly severe impact on our members was not justified, given that the award related to a period before any global economic problem had developed, and that collective agreements and arbitral awards issued prior to December 8, 2008 were allowed to stand.

The decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Fraser case was delivered while our case was being heard. In Fraser, the Court held that the Health Services case did not require that farm workers in Ontario be provided with all of the statutory protections for collective bargaining that the Labour Relations Act provides to other workers in that province. However, it did confirm that s.2(d) protects against interference with significant terms of negotiated agreements coupled with the elimination of the ability to negotiate those terms into the future. We therefore argued that it further supported our claim. The government was not able to provide its own response to the Fraser case to the court, and will be making some further submissions on that one case. If we think it is necessary to reply to those further submissions, we will be given a chance to do so.

It is not known when the decision in our case will be rendered, but we will keep you updated in that regard. We are advised by our counsel that it can often take 6 months to obtain a ruling and even longer periods of awaiting judgement are not unusual. Once the judge decides if there has been breach of our constitutional rights, we will appear before him again to argue the question of remedy. We will be arguing that we should receive the entire benefit of the wage adjustment, going back to October 1, 2006. It is not yet known what the government’s position on remedy will be.

There were many members present during the proceedings, both current and retired. I would like to thank all who attended for their support; it was greatly appreciated by both the executive and the legal team. Please share your views of the proceedings with your co-workers.

Ms. Boies Parker did an exemplary job of presenting our case, you can be assured that the very best submission possible was made to the court on behalf of the membership.

In Solidarity,
“original signed by”
Des Rogers

President FGDTLC (W)

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