Area contractors build consensus

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Area contractors build consensus
Thu, March 25, 2004

Area contractors build consensus By TOBI COHEN, Ottawa Sun

Finding a solution to the labour mobility crisis plaguing the local construction industry will be the task today when contractors hammer home their points with the province’s new negotiator. Recently appointed by Ontario Labour Minister Chris Bentley to negotiate a truce with Quebec, Christopher Bredt will gather recommendations from participants and eventually present them to Quebec negotiators.

« I want a level playing field, » said MPP Jean-Marc Lalonde, who helped organize today’s meeting.

He said stringent laws governing labour in Quebec have cost Ontario workers jobs and fines, while those who do find work across the river have faced harassment.

STILL SUFFERING

While Quebec contractors have managed to find ways to bypass Bill 17 — Ontario’s attempt at levelling the playing field by making it more difficult for Quebec labourers to work in Ontario — local workers, he said, are still suffering.

While he doesn’t support the introduction in Ontario of a competency card — the tough-to-acquire piece of identification that all labourers who work in Quebec must have — Lalonde suggested workers could be required to have some sort of certification in their trade.

Jocelyn Dumais, president of the Association for the Right to Work and owner of an Ottawa-based concrete company, said he’d like to see a « free zone » established on either side of the Quebec-Ontario border.

MERGED BOUNDARIES

« I’d say 50 km on both sides of the river, where the labour laws of both provinces will kind of merge in and any friction that causes problems to labour mobility in one province would adjust to the lesser restrictions, » he suggested.

Dumais said he’d also like to see restraints on the residential sector in Quebec dropped.

Labour laws there, he said, are so stringent you can’t even get your friends to help you build your cottage, and those who rent out a room in their own home are classified as commercial workers and face fines if they so much as paint a wall.

While he’s confident the Quebec government is open to such solutions, Dumais thinks it will be tougher to convince the unions. Tonight’s meeting runs from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Orleans Client Service Centre, 225 Centrum Blvd.

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Court rulings entrench unions

Court rulings entrench unions
Financialpost
Financial Post
Diane Francis

sept.5, 2003

2003-06-1Gazette Court rulings entrench unionsDiane Francis
Financial PostADVERTISEMENT

Canadians think more like Americans than Europeans when it comes to labour unions.Some 93% of Canadians who responded to a National Post/Global National poll said they feel workers should be able to choose the union that represents them. Nearly two-thirds, or 62%, said removing a union should as easy as voting in one.Nice sentiments, but no such rights exist here. Canadians only think they do.

Nearly one-third of Canada’s workers belong to unions that are entrenched because of laws and court decisions that are as restrictive as Germany’s or pre-Thatcher Britain’s.

It’s all but impossible to unseat unions.For instance, an individual offered work at a unionized company or government department does not have to become a member of the union, but must pay dues and be subject to its edicts. Likewise, an individual already in a union, who no longer wants to be a member, can quit but must pay dues and pay allegiance.Worse than being forced to support a union, individuals cannot replace one because existing unions belong to a monopoly — the Canadian Labour Congress — which forbids its members from competing against one another for new « customers.

« The only alternative is to form an independent union, but these are sandbagged by provincial labour relations boards which are comprised of patronage appointees drawn from the ranks of the union establishment.As for removal, labour laws impede voting out a union as opposed to voting in one.This new poll reveals how out of sync governments and courts are with the Canadian public. It’s a mismatch that dates back to 1946 and a landmark decision by Mr. Justice Ivan Rand.

Judge Rand ruled that workers in union shops do not have to « join » a union but must let that union bargain on their behalf. In return for this service, he wrote, workers must pay dues. Intended as a compromise between individual rights and union rights, the formula has clearly subordinated the individual to the union.It also handed unelected union leaders the power of taxation which has, in turn, given them the money to lobby against reforms or democratization and to support politicians and parties such as the New Democrats and Parti Québécois that have maintained the status quo.For instance, Quebec’s construction unions are so powerful that workers have been, and can still be, jailed for the crime of working unless they have a union card.

Gatineau contractor Jocelyn Dumais and allies mounted a Supreme Court of Canada charter challenge on the grounds that a worker’s right of assembly or association, contained in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, also guaranteed his right to NOT have to associate or belong to a union.The court rejected the argument.Likewise, the law has not protected individual workers, captive to union leaders, who use dues to further their own agenda. About 73% of polled respondents already in unions said their dues should not be spent on political or other causes.

In 1982 an Ontario community college teacher named Merv Lavigne launched a Charter challenge to win the right to direct a portion of his union dues to the political party of his choice, rather than allow it to be directed to the New Democrats.

Mr. Lavigne fought his case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, with the help of the National Citizens’ Coalition, and eight years later lost to high-priced lawyers from dozens of powerful unions. The court ruled that his rights had not been transgressed.Union privileges have also cost taxpayers. In the poll, roughly 65% of respondents said they disagreed with governments that restrict bidding on public contracts to unionized companies.But this is more common than not, at all three levels of government. Unions control Toronto’s city council, through NDP members, and only unionized contractors can bid for work even though their costs are often twice as much as independents charge.

Without a doubt, Canada’s pro-union labour laws transgress individual liberties and damage the economy.Fortunately, the union movement is shrinking in the private sector, where people still have choice. But, unfortunately, Canada’s unionized workers still need, and deserve, their own charter of rights.

Part four of a four-part series.;

For more information on the National Post/Global National poll please go to http://www.nationalpost.com; dfrancis@nationalpost.com© Copyright 2003 National Post

We have the right to work

1997-06-23 Ottawa Citizen We have the right to work