Legislation in Canada designed to cripple unions was undone
with the passage of a new bill on June 19.
Making good on a campaign pledge, the Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau passed Bill C-4 into law, reversing the course set by the previous administration. One, Bill C-377, created onerous reporting requirements for unions. The other, Bill C-525, mandated a secret ballot vote over card-check as a way to join a union, opening the door for employer intimidation.
“Our government was elected on a commitment to restore a fair and balanced approach to labour relations, and I am proud that today Bill C-4 … has received Royal Assent,” said the Honorable Patty Hajdu, minister of employment, workforce development and labour in a statement. “Our government knows that a healthy labour movement is essential to building an economy that works for the middle class.”
IBEW members were part of a years-long effort to defeat the bills, contacting legislators and participating in large numbers on lobby days hosted by the Canadian Labour Congress and Canada’s Building Trades Unions.
Most recently, members and staff focused their efforts on lobbying independent senators who aren’t beholden to any party.
|The Honourable Senator and Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative Diane Bellemare, left, hosted a reception after the Royal Assent for Bill C-4 which repealed anti-labour laws from the previous government. Also pictured: Political Action/Media Strategist Matt Wayland, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Patty Hajdu, Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Rodger Cuzner.
“I want to thank every member who participated in one form or another during those lobbying efforts,” said First District Vice President Bill Daniels in a letter to all locals in the district. “We wouldn’t be in this position today had you not been involved in the process.”
Passage of C-377 and C-525 spurred many in the labour movement to action during the last federal election, in 2015, which ousted the Conservative party and gave the Liberals a sweeping majority in Parliament. Both the Liberals and NDP parties campaigned on repealing the laws.
The Liberal government did in fact introduce C-4 as one of its first acts, in January 2016. But Conservative senators rallied in the spring to include amendments that would essentially keep C-525 intact.
Both the House of Commons and the Senate must agree on an identical bill in order for it to move to the governor general for Royal Assent, or official passage into law. The House rejected the amended version, sending it back to the Senate for another round. IBEW members played a major role in securing enough Senate support to pass the new version, without amendments and matching the lower chamber’s, on June 14.
On June 19, Bill C-4 received Royal Assent with a special signing ceremony on Parliament Hill attended by labour leaders.
“This is a great moment for working men and women across Canada,” said First District Political Action/Media Strategist Matt Wayland. “This was a long and hard-fought battle and I’m glad that working families came out on top.”
The reporting requirements in the original anti-union bill, C-377, were likely unconstitutional, said independent Senator Diane Bellemare in the Huffington Post, as it called for disclosure of personal information. Neither C-377 nor C-525 were reviewed by the Department of Justice, a common practice to ensure legitimate rule-making.
In December 2015, soon after coming to power, the Liberal Party’s Diane Lebouthillier, minister of national revenue, announced a waiver of the reporting requirements under C-377, halting it from being enacted. Bill C-525 however, did take effect in June 2015. In addition to mandating secret ballots, it also relaxed the conditions necessary to revoke union certification.
“I would encourage our local unions and our members to reach out to the senators that voted in favour of the bill in the original form and thank them for restoring balance for workers and unions across the country,” Daniels said.