Process for union certification up in the air

Red Deer MP wants secret ballots maintained

Unions may have to continue to use secret ballots when holding workplace certification votes for federal employees.

Previously the card check method, such as signing membership cards or a petition, was allowed as evidence of majority support from employees.

On Tuesday, the Senate voted against Bill C-4, a bill that would have kept the card check method in place.

The process for certification or decertification arrived in the House of Commons in 2013 when Bill-525 received first reading, a private members bill introduced by MP Conservative Blaine Calkins who at the time represented Wetaskiwin.

Calkins’ bill to make secret ballots mandatory, among other things, was passed and came into force in June 2015. Then in 2016 Bill C-4 was introduced by the Trudeau Liberals to reverse Bill C-525.

“(Bill C-4) is now going to be referred back to the house and I’m waiting to see what the Liberals are going to do with it. If they accept the changes made by the Senate I’ll be happy,”said Calkins, who is now MP for Red Deer-Lacombe, on Wednesday.

Government can either accept the changes that the Senate made or restore the bill before a vote.

“Woe onto them if they decide to undo what the Senate has done because Justin Trudeau has made a lot of promises about the independence of the Senate and if he undoes the work that they’ve done then everything, the whole credibility, the whole process then comes into question.”

He said signing membership cards or petitions opens workers to intimidation by unions.

“Nobody votes for members of parliament or MLAs or mayors that way. I don’t know why we’re voting to be in a union that way,” said Calkins from Ottawa.

Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said if there is any intimidation going on its by employers intimidating workers from joining unions.

“There are no examples of union intimidation in Alberta at least in the last 25 years. It doesn’t happen. But I can give you dozens and dozens of cases where employers have been found guilty by the Labour Relations Board of using intimidation tactics to discourage their workers from joining unions,” McGowan said.

“Their defence of so called secret ballots votes has nothing to do with democracy and everything to do with making it more difficult for working people to exercise their constitutionally protected rights to join unions and bargain collectively.”

He said those secret ballot votes are usually held on the employer’s premises with the employer looking over workers’ shoulders.

“Let’s be clear (employers) have all the power in the workplace. They have power over scheduling. They are the ones with power over promotions and they have the ultimate power to hire and fire. So this is not a level playing field.”

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