Important New Research on Secret Ballot Votes
The Montreal Economic Institute, a leading Quebec think tank dedicated to ideas for a more prosperous nation, working with Leger Marketing, released new research showing that while 71% of Quebecers support secret ballot votes, unionized workers were 80% more likely to agree with amending the current law to make a secret ballot vote mandatory.
Alberta Court Overturns Union Fines
On August 6, 2009 the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench dealt an important blow to the all too common practice of unions imposing significant fines upon members who work for employers not having a relationship with the union.
This case involved an experienced welder who was an actual "member" of the Boilermakers Union. He had been working in a managerial position for a building trades unionized contractor and changed employers to work in management for a non-union construction company. When the Union learned this it disciplined Wayne Armstrong and fined him $5,000. Failure to pay put his years of participation in the union benefit plans at risk. This is common in the construction industry in Alberta and in some other parts of Canada. The Labour Relations Board upheld this Union action, finding it was not coercive.
Alberta LabourWatch Content Advisor, McLennan Ross represented Mr. Armstrong in this August 2009 appeal.
Saskatchewan Code Overrides Common Law On Union Fines
As many of our readers know, this past May the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed appeal applications by two unions to overturn lower court rulings that refused Court enforcement of union fines levied against union members. The lower court rulings were based on decades of common law principles regarding penalties in contracts. (National Post - May 14, 2009)
Saskatchewan governments in 1983 and 1994 changed the law to allow unions to collect fines in court. These amendments effectively overrode the common law.
Saskatchewan now appears to be the only place in the world where statute law limits the ability of actual union members to hold union leaders accountable by crossing a picket line to do their own jobs. Unionized non-members cannot be fined if they cross the picket line, but few unionized employees in Saskatchewan are not Members because the law there also allows unions to force unionized workers to become actual members.
This not only creates a huge disparity between unionized employees in Saskatchewan and the rest of Canada, but it also creates a disparity among unionized workers within Saskatchewan. This law only applies to provincially regulated workers. Federally regulated union members for employers such as Air Canada or CN Rail could cross a picket line if their employer opened the workplace and the union could not go to court to collect the fines. Similarly, unions cannot collect fines from Federal civil servants who cross a picket line to work. As an aside, the Federal civil service labour code is the only one in Canada that protects unionized workers from being forced into union membership as a condition of employment.
If there is another place in the world where a government passes a law that fines workers for going to work to do their jobs, we don’t know where that is.
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LabourWatch advances employee rights in labour relations. We provide resources on unionization to help employees make informed choices. The Canadian LabourWatch Association is a federally-incorporated, non-profit founded in 2000. LabourWatch's membership includes law firms and industry associations across Canada that provide financial and voluntary professional support for the organization's activities. LabourWatch encourages employers, particularly, to use the website in consultation with a labour lawyer.