Senate Majority Eyes Union Bills; ‘Give Them A Chance’

Senate Conservatives will take a “very close look” at Liberal repeal of two labour bills, says a senior lawmaker. Conservatives retain a seven-vote majority in the Senate.

“The Liberals are not even giving these bills a chance,” said Senator Don Plett (Conservative-Man.). “If this was six years down the road and the big union bosses had issues, I’d say we’d be more open to it.”

Cabinet introduced Bill C-4 An Act To Amend The Canada Labour Code to repeal two Conservative bills enacted in 2015. Bill C-377 mandates disclosure of confidential union finances on a government website; and Bill C-525 abolishes the card-check system for union certification in federally-regulated industries in favour of secret balloting, and decertification on the votes of as few as 40 percent of employees in a union local.

“I have not changed my opinion on these bills,” said Plett. “Clearly these bills are intended to help the little guy, and I believe our party did just that – helped union members. And the Liberals want to help the union bosses.”

“I don’t know that I want to speculate on what we will do with these bills,” Plett said. “We will review every piece of legislation. What we’re going to do is give this a very close look. We’re not making any blanket statements. It wouldn’t be fair. The Senate doesn’t work that way.”

Current standings in the Senate are 45 Conservatives; 28 Liberals; ten independents including seven Conservative appointees; and 22 vacancies. Cabinet is expected to name five new Liberal appointees to fill a portion of the Senate vacancies by February 29.

“We hear horror stories about what’s going on with the big union bosses,” Plett said. “I have had one of them look me in the eye and say they would do everything in their power to make sure Conservatives were not elected in 2015. How democratic is that?”

Labour Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk said repeal of the two bills is necessary. “They were originally not formulated in accordance with democratic principles of consultation and need,” Mihychuk said. “These were political instruments to attack the labour movement. We are going to reset a fair and balanced platform and move from there.”

Mihychuk earlier told reporters all Conservative labour measures are under review. Bills passed by the previous government included repeal of the 1935 Fair Wages & Hours Of Labour Act that required federal contractors publish all wage scales; provide minimum time-and-half pay for overtime; forbid discrimination in hiring; guarantee wages of all employees of subcontractors in case of default; and submit records to labour department inspectors.

A 2013 omnibus budget bill also amended the Public Service Labour Relations Act to give cabinet “the exclusive right to determine whether any service, facility or activity of the Government of Canada is essential because it is or will be necessary for the safety or security of the public or a segment of the public.” Union executives opposed the measure as an unconstitutional infringement on the right to strike, noting previous governments had negotiated terms of which employees would be designated as “essential”.

By Tom Korski

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