I’ll be returning to posting more regularly in the next little while. But in the meantime, here’s updates on two earlier posts. (more…)
A Strike That’s Gone On Too Long
Last week there was a significant event in Nova Scotia that went largely unnoticed in the rest of Canada. Unfortunately it’s not a positive event, and it deserves more attention.
Over 50 unionized newsroom employees at the Chronicle Herald newspaper in Halifax have now been on strike for more than 500 days. Yes, almost a year and a half. (The length of the average work stoppage in Canada is six days.) The strike started on January 23, 2016, after (more…)
Public Education and the British Columbia Provincial Election
Some of this blog’s readers are likely already aware that the Canadian province of British Columbia (where I live) is going to have a provincial general election on May 9. Lots of issues are being raised in the election campaign: jobs, the cost of housing, natural resources, regional inequities, and campaign financing.
As in any election, education is also an important issue. The platforms of BC’s three major political parties – the Liberals (who, as the party with the most elected representatives in BC’s Legislature, are the current governing party), the New Democratic Party (NDP), and the Green Party – all have promises related to elementary and secondary (K-12) education. That’s heartening to see, because publicly-funded education is an essential part of a democratic, equal-opportunity society. However, the election discussions around BC’s K-12 public education system have not always included the significant events around that system in the last few years. I think these events should have a higher profile during this election – not just because (more…)
Bob White and “Final Offer”
This morning brought the sad news that Bob White had passed away. He was the founding president of the Canadian Auto Workers union – now known as Unifor, the largest private-sector union in Canada – and a former president of the Canadian Labour Congress, the national federation of Canadian unions.
White accomplished some incredible things in his long and productive life, but one of his activities is particularly meaningful to me. This is the documentary film Final Offer, made in 1984 by director Sturla Gunnarsson for the National Film Board of Canada. Final Offer chronicles (more…)
Supreme Court of Canada Decision in the BC Teachers’ Federation Case (Part II)
On November 10, the Supreme Court of Canada delivered an oral decision in the legal dispute between the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) – the union representing teachers in BC’s public school system – and the British Columbia provincial government.
That decision ended a 14-year legal battle between the two parties over the BC government’s decision to pass legislation that removed the language around class size and composition from its collective agreement with the BCTF, and that also excluded those issues from collective bargaining. The BCTF claimed that the government’s actions violated Section 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees freedom of association. Two previous Supreme Court of Canada decisions – in the Fraser case and the Health Services case – have established that in the context of labour relations, “freedom of association” includes workers’ rights to form unions and to engage in collective bargaining.
The Supreme Court decision on November 10 was remarkable because (more…)
Supreme Court of Canada Decision in The BC Teachers’ Federation Case (Part I)
This Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada held its hearing of an appeal by the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), the union that represents teachers in British Columbia’s public school system.
This ongoing case – which started in 2002 – involves several actions by the BC provincial government in its collective bargaining for a contract with the BCTF, primarily around the government’s decision to pass legislation declaring that some items would not be bargained, and removing those same items from the collective agreement that was then in effect. The BCTF opposed both of these changes. Later, there were also issues around the government’s conduct during bargaining.
The BC Supreme Court twice ruled in the BCTF’s favour, once in 2011 and again in 2014. The BC government appealed the 2014 ruling, and the BC Court of Appeal overturned that ruling. The Court of Appeal decision was the basis of the BCTF’s appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
I think it’s fair to say that all parties involved with this case expected that a case this complex would entail a lengthy hearing at the Supreme Court, followed by several months for the nine judges to review the arguments and write their decision. However, much to everyone’s surprise, (more…)
Why I support pretty much any strike by pretty much anyone, anywhere, about anything
In response to the one-day strike by Transport for London workers this week, Nathaniel Tapley provides this eloquent and passionate explanation of why it’s important for everyone to support workers on strike. “Every assault on pay, or conditions, for anyone in any industry narrows the options for us all. “
If you live in or around London, or work there, or know anyone who does, your social media will have been drenched in anger at the Tube strike this morning, along with the occasional voice popping up with: “I was saying Boo-urns.”
Anyway, many people’s first instinct is to blame the strikers (even if they couched in terms of support for nurses / teachers / anyone except tube drivers), so I thought I’d explain why mine isn’t.
To begin, I must declare an interest: I intend to use the Night Tube. I’d rather the person in control of the metal drunk-ferry burrowing its way through subterranean London at peak suicide time felt well-rested and recompensed and able to concentrate on getting me home without being dead.
They’re actually fighting for your pay and conditions
Wait, what? No they’re not? I don’t earn that much.
In a country where more…
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Bill C-377: A Sad Day for Democracy
Canada Day, July 1, is a day for Canadians to show their pride in their country. I love my country deeply. I am very grateful to have been born here, and I chose to live here. But this Canada Day is less than a joyous occasion for me – because on June 30, a law was enacted whose content and history is an embarrassment to democracy in this country.
I’ve written a couple of previous posts about Bill C-377, which started out as a private member’s bill in Canada’s House of Commons in late 2011. The bill amends Canada’s Income Tax Act to require “labour organizations” to submit statements to the Canada Revenue Agency showing the details of every financial transaction they make with a value over $5,000, along with details of any salaries over $100,000 annually that they pay. They are also required to submit a statement estimating the amount of time they spend on “political activities, lobbying activities and other non-labour relations activities”.
This information would be made publicly available on the Canada Revenue Agency website. It’s important to note that the details of financial transactions could include the amount of the transaction and the details involving the union, and the details of the other party or parties participating in the transaction.
There are many articles on the Internet describing the selective interpretations of Parliamentary procedure that were used to push this bill through Canada’s House of Commons and Senate. It says a lot about the poor quality of this bill that procedural manipulations were necessary for it to receive the approvals needed to become law. However, what I want to focus on in this bill’s enactment is the shameful disrespect for expert opinion and the apparent dominance of party loyalty over responsible decision-making. (more…)
Updates on two posts from earlier this year:
- Sean Tucker and Andrew Stevens, two professors at the University of Regina, gave a speech at the university about the flawed polling that is being used to support the anti-union Bill C-377 in Canada’s Parliament. They have now published an article in the journal Labour/Le Travail which gives even more detail on their findings around the history of this proposed legislation. A news story about the contents of the article is here.
- After writing a post about an interview that CBC journalist Amanda Lang conducted with John Mortimer, head of the anti-union Canadian LabourWatch Association, I submitted a complaint to the CBC about the lack of union perspectives in the interview. This week, the CBC ombudsman issued a ruling agreeing with the complaint. The text of her ruling is here.
- And on a related note, two weeks earlier the CBC ombudsman issued a ruling that Lang violated the CBC’s conflict of interest policy, by not revealing personal connections to the Royal Bank of Canada before she interviewed the bank’s CEO. The text of that ruling is here.
My New Book
I’m very pleased to announce that the 4th edition of my textbook Industrial Relations in Canada, published by John Wiley and Sons Canada, is now (more…)