Announcement on Changes to the Labour Relations Act
As others have said, we have not seen legislation so there are a lot of details that we don’t know yet.
It was uplifting to see that the government heard what workers have been saying for years: we need to create decent work for everyone and we need to provide them with greater access to their constitutional right to meaningful collective bargaining.
Because of the hard work of activists like yourselves, we have the potential to see a lot of wins with the upcoming legislation.
Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, every Canadian has the right to associate and pursue collective workplace goals. This means that they have the right to organize, the right to join a union, the right to engage in meaningful collective bargaining, and the right to strike.
When unions are trying to identify and communicate with members of a potential bargaining unit, they don’t have access to workplace information, like people’s names, work stations, or email addresses.
People cannot make an informed decision about the right to join a union if they are not able to hear from the union.
The government is committing to allowing unions to access employee lists and certain contact information – provided that the union can demonstrate that it has the support of 20 per cent of employees involved. We’ll be interested in seeing what workplace information unions can access.
Legislating workplace information will help even the playing field between workers and employers. That’s a win for us.
If and when workers are identified in an organizing drive, they’re forced to vote twice to show that they want to join a union.
Employers, who hold the balance of power, can coerce and harass their employees and partake in unfair labour practices. The second vote no longer represents what workers truly want.
Also, it shouldn’t be forgotten that card-based certification, where workers vote once, was the common practice in Ontario for over 45 years, until the Mike Harris government.
All Ontario workers – with no exceptions – deserve the same protection of their right to unionize. This is a constitutional right and there is absolutely no basis for restricting card-based certification in this manner.
Instead of reinstating card-check to all sectors, the government will be re-introducing card check in the temp agency industry, the building services sector as well as the home care and community services industry. They will also be maintaining the current threshold in the construction industry of 55 per cent and expanding it to the other three sectors.
There is a real opportunity here to continue to push the government to extend card-check to all workers in Ontario.
The Voting Process
Workers should have the option to vote in a neutral location, online, or through the telephone. Workers should be able to vote without employer interference.
The government recognizes this and will be introducing changes that allow votes to be held outside the workplace, including electronically and by telephone.
Certification Without a Vote
Right now, if employers engage in unfair labour practices, the Ontario Labour Relations Board typically orders another vote. As you can imagine, the outcome of this vote is pretty meaningless – considering that that it has been determined that the employer has engaged in serious intimidation and coercion.
The Board, however, has another tool at its disposal. It can certify a union without a vote if they believe that it’s now impossible to figure out what it is that employees really want – but they don’t do this often.
We advocated for the change that will reflect workers’ true wishes – in this case, making it easier for the Board to invoke certification without a second vote. The government listened and will likely introduce changes that reflect our demand.