The Canadian LabourWatch Association claims that it exists to “advance employee rights” and to provide “balanced” information about unionization in Canadian workplaces. However, this group’s real intention is to undermine Canada’s labour unions and Canadian workers’ legal right to choose to be represented by a union in their workplace.
In recent years, LabourWatch was one of the main supporters of Bill C-377 – a proposed federal law that would have required much more stringent financial reporting from unions than from other federally-regulated organizations. LabourWatch has also lobbied against mandatory union dues, and has been used as a resource by companies with unionized workers on strike in encouraging those workers to decertify their unions.
After the defeat of Bill C-377, and after the Conservative party lost the 2014 Canadian federal election, LabourWatch gradually became much less visible. The last newsletter posted on its website is from February 2017, and despite initiatives such as a review of federal minimum wage rates that would seem to be relevant to a group allegedly promoting “employee rights”, LabourWatch has been all but silent.
On June 24 and 25, LabourWatch is staging a conference on “Positive Employee Relations”. Despite the glamorous shots of downtown Toronto in the promotional video, the conference is actually being held in a suburban hotel near the Toronto airport. (Interestingly, despite LabourWatch’s claims of “balance”, the promotional video was produced by a company that states on its website, “We help companies communicate clearly and build a UnionProof culture”.) The topics being addressed by speakers at this event include: “Union Tactics – Insider Knowledge”, “High Risk Terminations – Legal and Security Considerations”, and “Another Teamsters Drive, They Never Stop!”
Characterizing employees and unions as sneaky, subversive and dangerous doesn’t seem like a very good way to foster “positive employee relations”. It’s worth pointing out here that the most common reason for employees to want union representation is not the reason that most people would think – namely, low pay. The most common motivation for employees to unionize is poor management. If employers are worried about unionization in their workplaces, developing honest and productive relationships with their employees would be a highly effective strategy. The type of “positive employee relations” that are being promoted at this conference are more divisive and destructive than they are “positive”.
It’s not unreasonable to suspect that LabourWatch decided to reappear because of anti-labour provincial governments recently being elected in Alberta and Ontario. In fact, one of the speeches at the LabourWatch conference is titled “Big Wins in Ontario! More to Come?”. There’s also an “information session” with an American organization that “values individual workers” and promotes “union-free work environments”.
Most ominously, though, the president of LabourWatch (and apparently its only employee) will be giving a speech on “the history and future of LabourWatch”. The history of LabourWatch is embarrassingly hypocritical, with its deceptive claims of “balance” and “informed choices”. Canada’s labour unions, and those who care about truly positive employee relations, should be keeping a close eye on whatever “future” LabourWatch is planning.