Nfld. & Labrador

Labour leaders hammer premier on union certification bill

Union leader Lana Payne is still furious after a meeting Tuesday evening with Premier Tom Marshall over a new bill that labour activists say will roll back workers' ability to organize.

PCs say some workers told government they want secret ballot

Unifor's Lana Payne says Bill 22 marks a serious erosion of workers' ability to form a union. (CBC)

Union leader Lana Payne is still furious after a meeting Tuesday evening with Premier Tom Marshall over a new bill that labour activists say will roll back workers' ability to organize. 

"Lets state it for what it is. This is an attack on worker's rights and on labour rights," Payne told CBC News. 

Payne, Atlantic director for the Canadian super-union Unifor, met with Marshall to discuss Bill 22, which was introduced in the House of Assembly this week. The bill, if made law, will change one of the rules involving union certification.

As it currently stands, a union can be formed automatically if 65 per cent of a company's employees sign union cards. Those rules were implemented in 2012.

But two years later the provincial government is aiming to change the rules once again, with legislation that would require workers to use a secret ballot process instead.

Payne said the message government is sending to workers is very clear.

"This is about catering to the employer lobby that does not want the opportunity for workers to organize themselves into a union," said Payne.

Changes based on 'research'

Earlier Tuesday in the House of Assembly, the minister responsible for the Labour Relations Agency said Bill 22 was in the best interest of workers and residents in Newfoundland & Labrador.

Service NL Minister Dan Crummell said the changes are about "bringing democracy back into the [union] certification process."

As to why government again wants to change the way it allows unions to form, Crummell cited research that suggests that secret-ballot union voting is now a more preferred route than card certification.

"Back in 2012 when we brought the amendments to the floor of the House, we thought we were coming in with fair and balanced legislation. Since then, we have heard concerns. We have heard concerns from employers and we have heard concerns from workers," said Crummell.

"When we did the review ... we looked at the research behind what is happening in the labour movement, what is happening with card-based certification and with union certification. What we found is that workers overwhelmingly want that vote on the ballot, in a secret-ballot vote," he told the house.

NDP calls it government backtracking

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael wants government to withdraw Bill 22. She said government did not consult with union and labour leaders about the changes.

Michael said decisions having to do with things like union certification are supposed to be done in a three-way consultation, including representation from government, the union as well as the workers' side.

She said when it comes to Bill 22, a part of that equation has been left out.

"We have constantly heard from government that it consults with the labour relations committee made up of government, unions, and employers and they make decisions together at the tripartite table," Michael said in the legislature. 

"Unions had no idea that government was backtracking on a decision made only two years ago. The tripartite table lost a leg apparently," Michael said.

Payne said Marshall agreed on Tuesday night to consider the arguments that union leaders presented. 


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