Last week (end of June), the Merit Contractors Association of Newfoundland and Labrador sent a letter to Terry French, minister responsible for labour relations, asking him to revisit a key provision in the updated act.
This week (July 4), the Canadian Home Builders’ Association said they’re also going to be writing to French.
Both groups oppose the automatic certification provision in the new legislation which allows for a workplace to unionize if more than 65 per cent of workers sign union cards.
Under the new system, no secret ballot vote is required.
“When you move from a secret ballot process, you’re really stripping away the employees’ right to have a private, confidential review of making a decision as dramatic as this,” said Paul Dube, executive director of Merit Contractors Association of NL. “There’s a lot of applications that have been brought forth to the Labour Relations Board here in this province that had 65 per cent support on the union card, and then when it went to the secret ballot vote, it failed.”
The government rolled out the new legislation on June 19, and passed it through the House of Assembly during the spring session.
At the news conference, French said the changes are based on a lengthy consultations with labour and business groups.
But Victoria Belbin at the home builders’ association said that the government didn’t consult with them, and the labour relations changes snuck through before they knew what was going on.
“It wasn’t on our radar,” she said. “We didn’t know anything about it.”
Belbin said the automatic certification provision could represent “devastating changes to our business environment.”
When he was announcing the changes, French said that either business or labour groups could “cherry pick” any one piece of the legislation.
He stressed that as a whole, it aims to maintain the balance between employers and unions.
Federation of Labour president Lana Payne dismissed the criticism of Merit Contractors saying that they’re just trying to undermine unions.
“Their sole existence, really, is to try to erode, weaken or get rid of unions altogether,” Payne said.
“The difficulty with this is that (they) have put forward the same ideas they have been putting forward, and employers in some cases have been putting forward for hundreds of years.”
Payne argued the new process makes it easier for workers to join unions, and that’s what business groups are really afraid of.
“It means that workers will have a say in the workplace on all kinds of matters like shift schedules, working conditions,” she said. “At the root of this is the fact that they don’t want to pay better wages and they don’t want to have improved working conditions.”
Dube disagreed, saying his organization isn’t anti-union.
“We never have been,” he said. “What we are about is making sure that unions are accountable for their actions and accountable to their members.”