New Law Would Foster Fair And Balanced Labour Relations

Archived Release

New Law Would Foster Fair And Balanced Labour Relations

Reforms Promote Continued Prosperity TORONTO, Nov. 3 - The McGuinty government is promoting stable labour relations and economic prosperity by introducing legislation that would ensure fairness and choice in Ontario's workplaces, Labour Minister Chris Bentley announced today. "Since 1990, Ontario's labour laws have swung unfairly in favour of one side or the other," said Bentley. "We intend to restore balance, giving all Ontarians equal confidence in our laws. This would promote the harmony and stability in the workplace that are vital for a prosperous and productive economy." If passed, the Labour Relations Statute Law Amendment Act, 2004, would: - Eliminate measures that promote an unhealthy working relationship among employers and employees in Ontario. For example, employers would no longer be required to post de-certification information in all unionized workplaces, and unions would not have to disclose the name, salary and benefits of all directors, officers and employees earning $100,000 or more a year. - Restore to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) the power to remedy the worst labour relations conduct by either side during an organizing drive. For example, the OLRB would be able - as a last resort - to grant union certification when an employer violates labour laws, or dismiss a certification application when a union violates the law. - Re-establish a card-based certification system for the construction sector in addition to the existing vote system. Currently, a vote must always be held before a union can be certified. The card-based system would permit automatic union certification if more than 55 per cent of employees sign cards to join a union. - Prevent consecutive strikes from paralyzing the homebuilding industry, as happened in 1998. The act would make permanent the special bargaining and dispute resolution regime for residential construction in the Toronto area in place since 2001. "Our proposals are designed to achieve choice, fairness and balance in Ontario's labour relations. By giving all players confidence in the system, it will create the stability necessary to assure the ongoing prosperity of the province," said Bentley. Backgrounder ------------------------------------------------------------------------- LABOUR RELATIONS STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 2004 The McGuinty government is seeking to promote workplace stability by introducing legislation that would restore greater fairness and balance to labour relations in Ontario. For more than a decade, changes to the Labour Relations Act have variously favoured either labour or employers, creating the conditions for instability, unrest, reduced confidence and confrontation while contributing little to Ontario's economic well-being. Fair and balanced labour relations rules are necessary for long-term productivity and prosperity. This has been Ontario's historical approach. The proposed Labour Relations Statute Law Amendment Act, 2004, if passed, would restore balance by repealing unnecessary and provocative measures such as the requirement that unionized businesses post information on union decertification and that unions disclose salaries. It would also return powers to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) so it can more effectively redress serious violations of the Labour Relations Act. Need for reform Ontario's prosperity depends on a balanced approach to labour relations. The labour relations system went through a number of major changes, which contributed to confusion, mistrust, uncertainty and instability. These sweeping changes were controversial and criticized as being one-sided. The labour relations system is meant to provide neutral rules to facilitate and regulate employer-union relations during the certification and collective bargaining processes and throughout the term of the collective agreement. A perceived lack of balance undermines confidence in the system, leads to more protracted negotiations, and contributes to workplace unrest. This results in lower productivity and creates a negative impact on Ontario's economy. If passed by the legislature, the proposed legislation would foster the labour relations balance necessary for increased productivity and prosperity in Ontario. Union decertification poster The legislation would repeal the Labour Relations Act, 1995, requirement that unionized businesses post information outlining the procedures for union decertification and make it available to workers on request. This provocative requirement was one-sided because no equivalent requirement to post certification information in non-union workplaces was put in place. Employees will continue to have reasonable access to union certification or decertification information. Individuals can already obtain information about these processes from the OLRB website and by phone. Union salary disclosure The legislation would repeal the requirement for unions and other labour organizations to disclose the names and remuneration of all directors, officers and employees earning $100,000 or more in salary and taxable benefits per year. This provision is one-sided, as no equivalent requirement exists for companies to disclose all similar information for management. It is widely perceived as a deliberate attempt to undermine relationships between unions and their members. The Labour Relations Act, 1995, already requires unions to provide a copy of an audited financial statement for the previous fiscal year to any member requesting it. Also, unions that administer vacation pay, health or pension funds for union members must file an annual financial statement with the Minister of Labour that discloses salaries, fees, and commissions charged to the fund. A member may request a copy of the statement from the administrator of the fund. Union salary disclosure rules should not be confused with the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act, 1996, which requires disclosure of salaries and taxable benefits paid to public servants earning $100,000 or more in salaries and benefits a year. Restoring powers to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) The legislation would restore the OLRB's long-standing power to certify a union where an employer breaches labour relations legislation during a union organizing campaign. This power would be narrow and focused. It would be used for the worst breaches where no other remedy would be sufficient. At the same time the legislation would restore the OLRB's power to dismiss an application for certification where a union violates the Labour Relations Act, 1995, during an organizing campaign. Again, it would be reserved for the worst breaches where no other remedy is sufficient as determined by the OLRB. The restoration of these powers would assure balance and fairness in labour relations while building confidence in the labour relations system. As well, subject to certain statutory conditions, the Labour Relations Statute Law Amendment Act, 2004, would restore the OLRB's power to reinstate workers on an interim basis who were fired or disciplined during a union organizing campaign because of their efforts to organize. Dismissal during an organizing campaign can have an immediate, negative effect on workers trying to make a decision about whether to seek union representation. Restoring the power to order reinstatement would enable the OLRB to respond to any potential harm caused by a dismissal in a timely way, thus helping to ensure the workers can exercise a free choice regarding union representation pending a final decision. Employers would still be able to dismiss or discipline employees for misconduct that occurs during this period, provided that the dismissal or disciplinary action is not related to the organizing campaign. Amendments to the Ambulance Services Collective Bargaining Act, 2001 The Labour Relations Statute Law Amendment Act, 2004, would also amend the Ambulance Services Collective Bargaining Act, 2001 as it relates to the Minister of Labour's power in appointing interest arbitrators (arbitrators who deal with the creation of a collective agreement). The Ambulance Services Collective Bargaining Act, 2001, introduced by the previous government, allows the minister to appoint an interest arbitrator in the ambulance services sector without taking into consideration the person's experience or knowledge. Under the proposed Labour Relations Statute Law Amendment Act, 2004, the minister would only be able to appoint arbitrators who are "in the opinion of the minister, qualified to act." This legislation would help to ensure that the appointment process is, and is seen to be, fair, and that appropriate, neutral arbitrators would be selected by the minister. Minimizing residential home construction disruptions If passed, the legislation would make permanent the existing special bargaining and dispute resolution regime for the residential construction sector in the City of Toronto, the regional municipalities of Halton, Peel, York, Durham, and Simcoe County. The special bargaining regime in Toronto and the surrounding area has been in place since 2001 to prevent consecutive strikes from paralyzing the residential construction industry as happened in 1998. The regime would require Toronto and surrounding area residential construction sector collective agreements to expire on April 30, 2007 and every third year thereafter. There would be a 46-day window from May 1 to June 15 for strikes and lockouts to occur. After that, the right to strike or lock out would end, but either party could access arbitration to conclude a collective agreement. Special certification rules to recognize the uniqueness of the construction sector The legislation, if passed, would re-establish a card-based certification system for the construction sector. From 1950 to 1995, a certification system based on membership cards submitted by the union was the norm. As an alternative to holding a vote, automatic certification could take place if a union signed up more than 55 per cent of the employees in the bargaining unit. Given the emphasis on project work and the mobile nature of the workforce in the construction sector, re-introducing such a system here promotes individual choice, fairness and balance. Disponible en fran├žais www.gov.on.ca/lab/For further information: Peter Fitzpatrick, Minister's Office, (416) 326-7710; Belinda Sutton Ministry of Labour, (416) 326-7405