05 Jun Bill 17: Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act, Amendment A24


Mr. Clark: Yes, Madam Chair. I do have an amendment, which I will hand over right now and await your receipt of that, and then I will start speaking.

The Chair: This is amendment A24.

Mr. Clark: Thank you very much, Madam Chair. In light of that last amendment to restore the secret ballot process failing and other amendments in efforts to eliminate the card check process – oh, I apologize. I have to read out the amendment. My apologies. I will do that now.

I move that Bill 17, the Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act, be amended in section 113(1) in the proposed section 34(2) by striking out “and” at the end of clause (d) and by adding “and” at the end of clause (e) and by adding the following after clause (e):

(f) the trade union or a person acting on behalf of a trade union did not engage in a prohibited practice under section 151(f) against any of the employees in the unit the Board considers an appropriate unit for collective bargaining.

I will just talk about why I’ve come up with this amendment and then dive into the details of specifically what it does. I don’t like the card check process, Madam Chair. I don’t think that’s any secret, but given that we’ve seen repeated attempts to restore the fundamental principle of a secret ballot fail in this House, I thought I would do whatever I can to try to improve the card check process.

One of the biggest challenges to the card check process is the perception if not the reality – one would hope not the reality. But at the very, very least it’s the perception of intimidation as part of the certification process. What I hope this amendment does is that it strikes a reasonable balance, which I think actually could be a win if the card check process is to move forward. It looks like it is, whether we like it or not. So if it’s going to be there, what can we do to make it as good as it can possibly be? Make a bad idea as good as it can be, I guess, is sometimes all we can try to do in opposition. Hopefully, Madam Chair, this could be seen as a win for unions because it strengthens the process. In the case where the 65 per cent threshold is met, it removes the perception that intimidation happened.

As the bill is currently written and as I interpret it, the Labour Relations Board does not have the power to investigate or could perhaps be interpreted not to have the power to investigate. Let’s just look to section 113(1) of Bill 17, that repeals section 34 and replaces it with a new section 34, which outlines what the Labour Relations Board can do when certifying an application for unionization. The heading is Inquiry into Certification Application, and 34(2) reads:

(2) Before granting an application for certification, the Board shall satisfy itself, after any investigation that it considers necessary, that

(a) the applicant is a trade union,

(b) the application is timely,

(c) the union applied for, or a unit reasonably similar to it, is an appropriate unit for collective bargaining,

(d) subject to subsection (8), the employees in the unit the Board considers an appropriate unit for collective bargaining have voted, at a representation vote conducted by the Board, to select the trade union as their bargaining agent, and

(e) the application is not prohibited by section 38.

What we’re doing is adding a section (f) to that to ensure that the Labour Relations Board can also consider whether or not the trade union or a person acting on behalf of a trade union did not engage in a prohibited practice under section 151(f), which I’ll get to in a this says is that the Labour Relations Board will be able to review and include coercion and intimidation as one of the areas that they consider when inquiring into the certification of an application. If this test is met, we can be satisfied, and as long as the Labour Relations Board is satisfied, I think Albertans can be satisfied that no coercion or intimidation happened. That’s obviously a concern we’ve heard repeated again and again.

Any process that’s open, that involves a vote that is not a secret ballot process is open to this risk. I’m not suggesting that it happens every single time. I’m sure it doesn’t happen every single time, but it’s certainly open to the risk. What evidence do we have of that? The evidence that was presented by the government and by Mr. Sims is that when there’s a card check process that takes place that is followed by a secret ballot, as Bill 17 will enable for those card checks that achieve 40 to 65 per cent – when there’s a secret ballot vote that follows a card check process, that vote tends to be 15 per cent lower than the card check process.

Now, why would that be? Well, I wonder why that is. That might be that people feel pressured into signing a card in open, plain view of their colleagues – they actually don’t want the unionization drive to happen – and then in the secret ballot process mark an X for no as opposed to yes. The reason that 65 per cent was chosen was because of that 15 per cent difference. Given that, it’s very difficult for me to hear from the other side that no intimidation ever happens, that no one is ever leaned on, that no kind of quiet conversations happen in the hallway. When 15 per cent of people are changing their vote, very clearly something has happened. Something is different between what people do in the privacy of a voting box and what happens when it’s all in plain view.

To ensure that the system is as sound as it can be, this amendment seeks to enable and ensure that the Labour Relations Board has the power to consider whether or not there was intimidation, a prohibited practice under section 151(f). By the way, the wording that we got for my amendment comes from the current labour code. Section 151(f) is not repealed or amended by Bill 17. It is already today in the labour code, will continue to be in the labour code, and is not changed by Bill 17. It uses almost exactly the same language, which is why we have adopted it here for this amendment.

Again, I’m not a believer that a card check process is appropriate. I don’t believe it’s necessary. I think it’s a step backwards. This amendment attempts to address the greatest shortcoming of a card check process, and I sincerely and genuinely would encourage and hope that the government would consider this amendment and include it in Bill 17 to make what is not a great provision of the bill at least just a little bit better.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

The Chair: Any other speakers to amendment A24?

Mr. Clark: Thank you, Madam Chair. You know, I want to agree with the Member for Lethbridge-East. Intimidation of all kinds is absolutely wrong. So for your employer to come and try to lean on you to not sign off on pay equity, it’s absolutely wrong, fundamentally, absolutely, one hundred per cent wrong. It shouldn’t have happened under any circumstance. And that’s what this amendment seeks to address. There are times when intimidation is going to happen.

Let’s also not forget that Bill 17 extends the window for a unionization drive from 90 days to six months – it doubles the time – so that gives more opportunity for people to be influenced one way or the other. That doubling of the time is another big challenge.

Also, I just want to address the question of whether employers are allowed to interfere in the process or intimidate. Of course they aren’t. That is already in the legislation, as it should be. Employers should also not be allowed to intimidate, and that is already clearly covered in the labour code. It’s already covered in section 149(c) in the current labour code, so it’s already there.

Again, I would encourage the government to rethink this, vote in favour, and include this because I do think that although the card check process itself is flawed, this would at least perhaps strengthen it and bring more of a perception of legitimacy.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

The Chair: Any other speakers to amendment A24?

Seeing none, are you ready for the question?

[The voice vote indicated that the motion on amendment A24 lost]

[Several members rose calling for a division. The division bell was rung at 9:26 p.m.]

[One minute having elapsed, the committee divided]

[Ms Jabbour in the chair]

For the motion: Anderson, W. Gotfried Schneider Clark Hanson Starke Cooper Hunter Strankman Cyr Loewen Taylor Drysdale MacIntyre van Dijken Ellis McIver Yao Gill Pitt

Against the motion: Anderson, S. Jansen Renaud Bilous Kazim Rosendahl Carlier Kleinsteuber Sabir Coolahan Larivee Schmidt Dach Loyola Schreiner Dang Mason Shepherd Drever McCuaig-Boyd Sigurdson Feehan McKitrick Sucha Fitzpatrick Miller Turner Gray Miranda Westhead Hinkley Nielsen Woollard Hoffman Piquette

Totals: For – 20 Against – 35

[Motion on amendment A24 lost]