Last week, on Thursday, June 5, PCs and Liberals voted in the House of Assembly to do away with a section of the Labour Relations Act that automatically certifies a union if 65 per cent of employees sign union cards.
We now go back to the old procedure where, even if all the workers sign cards, a so-called secret ballot will be held in the workplace.
NDP MHAs loudly opposed Bill 22.
Employer groups lobbied hard for the change. Government met and consulted with them but did not make so much as a courtesy phone call to unions.
Workers apparently no longer have the same right to be heard by this government as employers do.
Card-based certification was the norm for many years in this province (and in the rest of Canada), until 1994 when the Clyde Wells Liberal government removed it.
It was reinstated in 2012 as part of a modernization of labour laws led by
a committee of employers, unions and government representatives.
Government at the time said it was a more balanced and democratic approach that would help maintain positive labour relations.
It worked well for two years — a third of applications were automatically approved because 65 per cent of workers had signed cards, and there was no evidence of irregularities.
But all that was forgotten as government rushed to do the bidding of anti-union employers, who want to put up more barriers to unionization and whose attitudes towards their employees are reminiscent of old-time Water Street merchants.
The Tories and the Liberals now say it’s more democratic to have a vote in the workplace instead of card-based certification.
But what may happen after workers sign union cards can be anything but democratic.
The law requires five working days between the date an application is filed and the date a vote is held.
It is an irresistible opportunity for some employers to try and convince workers not to vote for a union.
Studies have found that employers regularly use intimidation, bribes and threats of job loss or business closure to stop unionization, even though some of these tactics are illegal.
In addition, any worker who does not cast a ballot is counted as a “no” vote, no matter what the reasons for not voting: sickness, vacation, on a two-week “off” shift, etc.
Getting rid of card-based certification is the latest attack on working people in this province.
Government is bowing to pressure from employers to maintain a low minimum wage, reduce pension benefits and in any way possible divert the benefits of economic prosperity into their own coffers and away from the employees whose work makes the boom a reality.
The NDP will continue to oppose this trend, as it did in opposing Bill 22.
Newfoundland and Labrador NDP leader