A proposal to change labour law rules when competing unions find themselves facing merger votes violates worker rights and undermines democracy in the workplace, the president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union said yesterday.
“If Bill 109, as currently drafted, passes into law then a worker will lose the right to determine which union he or she chooses to represent them,” said Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “That is fundamentally unjust and it ignores the principle of workplace democracy.”
The proposed change to the Public Sector Labour Relations Transition Act (PLSRTA) would affect only those unions which represent employees working in the public sector.
Bill 109 represents such a sweeping change to the way organized labour conducts its democratic processes that Thomas urged all unions in Ontario to join together to force changes to the draft legislation.
“One union acting alone is unlikely to change the direction the Liberals want to go with this,” he said. “But if we marshal our considerable resources and energy, I believe we can stop the proposed Bill before it becomes law.”
Merger votes occur when two or more unions represent employees working for a single employer. The employer can make an application to the Ontario Labour Relations Board to have the employees decide which of the competing unions should represent them.
Under the proposed Bill, no merger vote would be required if one of the unions already represents more than 60 per cent of the workforce.
Thomas said the proposed change doesn’t take into account the fact that while one union may be able to sign up a majority of workers through an organizing drive, it doesn’t mean that same union enjoys either a superior collective agreement or its ability to enforce the contract.
“In a merger vote, workers should be entitled to judge each union on their own merits,” said the OPSEU president. “Bill 109 rewards one union for having signed up the most members compared to the other union. It doesn’t allow for members to decide for themselves which is the stronger union with respect to negotiating, or enforcing, a good collective agreement. The proposed legislation snatches away that entitlement.”
Warren (Smokey) Thomas