Ontario's Workplaces Return to Balanced Labour Relations

Archived Release

Ontario's Workplaces Return to Balanced Labour Relations

Labour Relations Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005 Receives Royal Assent TORONTO, June 13 - Bill 144, the Labour Relations Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005, restoring fairness and balance to the province's labour relations system, has received Royal assent and is now law. "Since 1990, our labour laws have swung unfairly in favour of either employees or employers," said Labour Minister Chris Bentley. "We have restored the traditional balance so all Ontarians can have equal confidence in our laws. This will contribute to the harmony and stability in the workplace that are vital for a prosperous, productive economy." The Labour Relations Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005: - Eliminates measures that promote unhealthy working relationships among employers and employees in Ontario. For example, employers will no longer be required to post de-certification information in all unionized workplaces, and unions will not have to disclose the name, salary and benefits of all directors, officers and employees earning $100,000 or more a year. - Supports democracy by restoring to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) the power to remedy the worst labour relations conduct by either side during an organizing drive, when that conduct effectively removes the workers' right to choose. For example, the OLRB will now 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-establishes a card-based certification system for the construction sector in addition to the existing vote system. The card-based system will permit automatic union certification in the construction sector if more than 55 per cent of employees sign cards to join a union. - Prevents consecutive strikes from paralyzing the homebuilding industry, as happened in 1998. The legislation makes permanent the special bargaining and dispute resolution regime set up in 2001 for residential construction in the Toronto area. "Through these amendments, we are restoring fairness and we are restoring balance," said Bentley. "We are reasserting the principles that served as the foundation for Ontario's prosperity for decades, setting the stage for future prosperity." Disponible en français www.gov.on.ca/lab/ Backgrounder ------------------------------------------------------------------------- LABOUR RELATIONS STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 2005 The McGuinty government is promoting workplace stability through legislation that restores 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. These have created the conditions for instability, unrest, confrontation and reduced confidence, 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 Labour Relations Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005, restores 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 also returns 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. Since 1990, the labour relations system has gone through a number of major changes, which contributed to 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 negatively impacts Ontario's economy. The Labour Relations Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005 fosters the labour relations balance necessary for increased productivity and prosperity in Ontario. Union decertification poster The legislation repeals 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 there was no corresponding requirement to post certification information in non-unionized workplaces. 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 repeals 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 requirement exists for companies to disclose all similar information for management. It was 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 The legislation restores the OLRB's long-standing power to certify a union where an employer breaches labour relations legislation during a union organizing campaign and, as a result, the employees' true wishes regarding union certification cannot be ascertained. This power is narrow and focused. It is to be used for the worst breaches where no other remedy would be sufficient. At the same time, the legislation restores the OLRB's power to dismiss an application for certification where a union violates the Labour Relations Act, 1995, during an organizing campaign and, as a result, the employees' true wishes regarding union certification cannot be ascertained. Again, it is reserved for the worst breaches where no other remedy is sufficient as determined by the OLRB. The restoration of these powers assures 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, 2005, restores 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 or because of their support for the union. 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 enables the OLRB to respond to any potential harm caused by dismissal or discipline in a timely way, thus helping to ensure the workers can exercise a free choice regarding union representation pending a final decision. Employers are still 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. Minimizing residential home construction disruptions The legislation makes permanent the existing special bargaining and dispute resolution regime for the residential construction sector in the City of Toronto, and 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 requires Toronto and surrounding area residential construction sector collective agreements to expire on April 30, 2007 and every third year thereafter. There is 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 ends, but either party can access arbitration to conclude a collective agreement. Special certification rules to recognize the uniqueness of the construction sector The legislation re-establishes 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 to the industry promotes individual choice, fairness and balance. Amendments to the Ambulance Services Collective Bargaining Act, 2001 The Labour Relations Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005, also amends 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 Labour Relations Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005, the minister is only able to appoint arbitrators who are "in the opinion of the minister, qualified to act." This legislation helps ensure that the appointment process is, and is seen to be, fair and that appropriate, neutral arbitrators are selected by the minister. Royal assent The Labour Relations Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005, received Royal assent on June 13, 2005 and is now in force. The sections relating to the special bargaining and dispute resolution regime for the residential construction sector will be retroactive to May 1, 2005 upon Royal assent. Disponible en français www.gov.on.ca/lab/For further information: Contacts: Peter Fitzpatrick, Minister's Office, (416) 326-7710; Belinda Sutton, Ministry of Labour, (416) 326-7405