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This article was published 11/4/2016 (495 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister’s pledge to make it much more difficult for workers to organize a union amounts to stacking the deck against workers. It moves away from a fair and balanced approach to labour relations that has led to a period of significant labour peace in Manitoba over the last decade and a half.
Pallister has said he’ll reverse provincial law by banning automatic certification, or "card check" as it’s more commonly known, a legitimate form of union certification, used in many other provinces and territories across Canada.
Under current Manitoba law, if a minimum of 65 per cent of workers vote to join a union by signing a union card, then a union can qualify to be automatically certified to become the official bargaining agent for the workplace. This can only happen after every signed union card is submitted to the Labour Board and a tripartite review (including worker and management representatives and an independent third party) checks every card, and ensures the law is followed.
Manitoba’s 65 per cent threshold to achieve automatic certification of a union (a threshold most would call a "super-majority") is the highest in the country. At 65 per cent, the democratic will of workers is crystal clear — they have voted to belong to a union.
Pallister would require a second vote at this stage, conducted by secret ballot, stalling the timeline and opening up the process to potential employer interference. The practice of having a majority of workers sign union cards to achieve automatic certification eliminates the possibility of managers or supervisors coercing or intimidating workers against joining a union.
Recently, the new federal minister of labour released a report that examines what happens when jurisdictions require two separate votes on on joining a union. The report determined that requiring two votes — one through signing union cards, and a second by secret ballot — has a distinct negative effect on rates of union certification.
Let there be no doubt: the only reason to change the law to prevent card-check voting is to make it tougher for workers to unionize.
Unionized workplaces continue to enjoy higher wages, better benefits and stronger health and safety environments than non-unionized workplaces. A balanced approach to labour relations needs to respect the will of workers to choose a union — it’s a simple matter of fairness.
Kevin Rebeck is the president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour.