There is a battle brewing in Canada between the rights of individual Canadians and the agenda of union leaders. The battle lines are being drawn and based on what I’ve seen so far, it’s going to be a difficult fight.
Canadians want changes – in Quebec, they want an end to ties between unions and organized crime and an end to wide-spread corruption. In Ottawa, the federal government has introduced legislation that forces unions to publically disclose their finances. In Alberta, there is a growing group of businesses, politicians and citizens who understand that Alberta’s Labour Relations Code needs to be updated if the province is to once again become competitive. The last time Alberta’s Labour Code was significantly amended was 1988 – a full generation ago.
Union leaders, on the other hand, want the status quo and they appear to be willing to protect it at all costs.
However, the cost to Canadians of doing nothing about these critically important public policy issues is far too great. Harold Wilson once said, “he who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.”
Canadian labour laws are causing decay in our Country and it’s important for us to tackle the causes of this head on. Canadian union leaders will dismiss calls for change and will use every tool at their disposal to stop progress from happening. We must be vigilant and stay the course.
The federal government has recently introduced a Private Members Bill on union financial disclosure. This legislation is necessary given the fact that Canadian unions essentially have the power of taxation on their members with absolutely no requirements for transparency.
The Alberta Union of Public Employees (AUPE), the union that represents Alberta’s public sector workers, is one of very few unions that make some of their financial information available. Based on those records, it’s clear that Alberta’s bureaucracy is forced to support the unions’ own anti-business agenda through mandatory union dues or forced wage deductions whether they support the union’s agenda or not.
The AUPE’s financial records show that in 2011, $928,399 has been set aside for a “labour laws campaign” and another $368,922 has been reserved for an “anti-privatization campaign”. While unions have every right to advocate for these causes and fight these campaigns, individual union members must have the right to decide whether they want to participate financially in these activities. The problem in our current labour relations system is that public sector workers are forced to pay the bill for these campaigns through direct and mandatory wage deductions even if they disagree with the campaign or if they choose not to be card carrying members of their union.
In other words, the very same public servants who are asked to prepare briefing notes, policy drafts and legislative documents for politicians are forced, through mandatory union dues, to pay for an agenda that is directly in conflict with the job they work hard at, most often with pride, each day.
The inherent conflict of interest here is absolutely mind boggling. It’s the ultimate example of the tail wagging the dog and should be deeply troubling to every single politician who wants to make Canada a better place to live and raise a family.
In Europe, governments have amended labour legislation to allow individual employees to opt out financially from political causes their unions choose to engage in. In Europe, governments have also imposed strict financial disclosure rules on unions to ensure that these institutions are accountable.
With recent developments in Quebec and Ottawa, Canadians have started to take some steps in the right direction on labour law reform. It’s time for Canadian provinces to join the rest of the world and take a larger step by embracing labour code changes such as those suggested in this blog. If Alberta is to ever return to the Alberta Advantage, it needs to get ahead of other provinces by making the first move in this direction.
If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep walking.