Unions furious over labour law 'flip flop'

Published on June 3, 2014
Mary Shortall. — Western Star file photo

The provincial government appears to be doing an about-face on labour issues in the province — reversing key amendments to the Labour Relations Act just two years after they were announced.

Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour president Mary Shortall called the proposed amendments on the order paper in the House of Assembly an attack on workers' rights.

“It is an affront to the workers of this province that government did this with absolutely no consultation with the labour movement,” Shortall said.

Back in 2012, then-minister Terry French announced that the government would introduce card-based certification which would allow automatic certification of a union if 65 per cent of the people in a workplace signed a union card.

On the other side of the ledger, the government announced that employers would be given the power to put an offer directly to workers during the collective bargaining process, bypassing the union negotiating committee.

At the time, French emphasized the balance of the two new provisions.

But while the card-based automatic union certification came into force shortly after the June 2012, announcement, the ability for employers to put a contract offer directly to their workers for a vote was never enacted.

Now, the government has quietly introduced a bill to rescind card-based automatic certification.

“What has happened in those two years to justify this flip-flop?” Shortall asked in a news release. “This change has nothing to do with democracy in the workplace — it’s all about capitulating to the business interests and making it more difficult for workers to organize themselves into unions. If the government under Frank Coleman is going to operate like a Harper government — then I expect it will be a very short lived one.”

The change will likely make employers' groups happy.

In December when the N.L. Employer's Council complained about the lopsided approach by government, then-minister Darin King said he'd look into it.