From LABOR-L@YorkU.CA Wed Jan 26 12:54:27 2000
Ontario eyes restrictions on union drives
By Richard Brennan, Toronto Star, 26 January 2000
Labour leader warns of ‘war’ over U.S.-style amendments
Labour law amendments expected this fall could restrict union membership drives, change how strike votes are held and allow employers an opportunity to persuade workers not to join unions, Labour Minister Chris Stockwell says.
"These are ideas we are kicking around . . . basically we are looking at levelling the playing field (between unions and employers)," Stockwell said in an interview yesterday.
Stockwell said these are changes the employers want, which he doesn't believe are controversial if they lead to what he describes as more "democracy" in the workplace.
But Wayne Samuelson, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, said such an attack on organized labour would result in a "major war" between the province and every union.
"This is basically American-style right-to-work legislation," Samuelson said. "What he is doing is changing the whole premise of labour relations in this province for the last 50 years."
Sid Ryan, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Ontario), said he met with Stockwell yesterday "and believe me this is more than just blue-skying." "(Stockwell) told me he is bringing in these changes. This is about making it more difficult to organize workers and robbing workers of their democratic rights to join a union."
Stockwell's comments amount to the first glimpse into the vague references made in the Tory government's re-election document regarding strengthening the rights of individual workers.
Stockwell said he would like to see a limit - about 12 months - on the time between one certification drive and the next when a union fails to get certification.
"What it come downs to is an employer is subject to a certification at any time," the minister said, adding that this is unfair to the employers and employees because of the anxiety that results.
He said the situation should be similar to a decertification where a vote can only held on the anniversary of the contract, which in most cases is every two to three years.
Stockwell may also consider a split vote on first contracts, in which employees would vote on a contract offer and then on whether they support a strike.
"Maybe they want to turn down a contract offer but they don't want to go on strike."
Ryan said this would destroy the union's bargaining power, especially once the employer discovered the membership wasn't prepared to back contract demands.
Stockwell said during union drives, employers should be able to meet with workers in a public forum monitored by labour ministry officials.
The Harris government in 1998 made changes to the Ontario Labour Relations Act saying that proven coercion or intimidation by an employer during a certification drive would no longer result in automatic certification.
Samuelson said recent polling sponsored by labour federation shows the public favours the employees' right to chose a union without interference.
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