Labour reforms would fix our worker shortage

Financialpost

Labour reforms would fix our worker shortage

* * * * Diane Francis, Financial Post DFrancis
Published: Friday, June 23, 2006
Canada’s labour situation is worsening because needed reforms elude and the
politicians don’t get it.
For instance, Gatineau, Que., contractor Jocelyn Dumais has been fighting the
province’s closed-shop labour laws for years and he called recently with some
upsetting news.
The McGuinty government in Ontario last month backed off a piece of legislation
that was designed to force Quebec to level the playing field in the construction
industry. For decades, Quebec has forbidden non-resident Canadians from taking
construction jobs while Quebecers have been free to work anywhere in the
country.
Notably, they swamped the labour markets along the borders between the two
provinces until the Mike Harris government passed Bill 17 which forbid them from
working in Ontario until Quebec backed off its restrictions.
"Last month, the Ontario government cancelled Bill 17, which forbid Quebec
construction workers from getting employment in Ontario unless Quebec changed
its unfair labour law, Dumais said.
"They call it a shared labour mobility agreement, but it’s a fake. The Ontario
government tried to get me to support this but it’s not what we’ve been fighting
for.
Here’s what they said they got in exchange: Ontario workers may apply to work
there but there were many restrictions. They had to pass an exam, provide
certain evidence of experience and had to already be working in Quebec. That’s
not labour mobility.
Ontario added that Quebec agreed to let Ontario residents accept construction
jobs involving Hydro Quebec contracts, but only if the salaries were $100,000 or
more. That was just an exemption for big contracting companies like Ellis Don,"
Dumais said.
Dumais is one of my favourite Canadians and is founder of the Association for
the Right to Work (www.adat.ca). For years, he has lobbied provinces, staged
road blockages and raised hundreds of thousands to mount a Supreme Court of
Canada case which, unfortunately, he lost.
(His charter challenge argued that if workers have the right to associate they
also should have the right to not associate. The Court disagreed.)
But he has not given up and hopes to reverse this unfair deal. He also wants to
warn Ontario that the McGuinty government is looking at closed-door laws similar
to Quebec’s because of all the illegals and non-union members working in the
province.
By the way, Quebec’s unions run the show there and their construction sector is
embarrassingly restrictive: Workers must be union members or obtain a special
work permit from the Province which are about as readily available as Green
cards. People are routinely rounded up on sites for the crime of working
illegally, fined and even jailed.
Another voice of reason Meanwhile, the labour situation worsens nationally as
the giant sucking sound from Alberta’s megaprojects continues apace and unions
stand in the way of labour mobility through featherbedding and apprenticeship
restrictions.
What follows is a thoughtful letter from union member John Gilmurray:
The real problem with labour policy in Canada is the union. On a
recent visit to England and Ireland I was surprised that there are no locals,
just one trade union congress for each country.

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