VANCOUVER, B.C. — The Independant Contractors and Business Association is pleased with Green Party leader Andrew Weaver’s annoucment yesterday regarding secret ballots in union certification votes, while the BC Federation of Labour isn’t quite so happy.
ICBA President Chris Gardner announced his organisation’s support of Weaver’s decision to not support NDP leader John Horgan’s plan to make changes to the B.C. Labour Code. The NDP’s plan was to change the process that workplace employees would have to take if they wanted to unionize. Horgan proposed adopting a similar method to that at the federal level, and in other provinces such as Quebec, Manitoba, Atlantic Canada, and most recently, Alberta. The proposed change would mean that workers would sign union membership cards during a recruitment drive, instead of casting secret ballots.
“Stripping workers of the secret ballot would weaken the rights of workers to the benefit of big unions – we’ve enjoyed relative labour peace in B.C. in recent years, so it’s puzzling that the NDP want to turn back the clock on labour relations in this province,” said Gardner. Weaver stated that his opposition to the move stemmed from his time with the UVic Faculty Association. “Now I know from first-hand experience that in any certification drive there are those people who feel pressured to sign a certification drive, but they want the opportunity to have a secret ballot,” Weaver told The Vancouver Sun. “I’m a big supporter of unions, but you have to give people the right to a secret ballot.”
“The current system, using a secret ballot, ensures that neither employers nor unions are able to coerce or intimidate workers,” said Gardner. “Certification votes are fair and they are supervised by a neutral party, the Labour Relations Board.”
However, BC Federation of Labour President Irene Lanzinger refutes Gardner’s claim that employers are not able to coerce or intimidate workers. Lanzinger says that when the BC Liberals came to power in 2001, then-Premier Gordon Campbell made changes to the Labour Code that made it much harder for workers to try to organize a union.
“We’ve had sixteen years of the scales being tipped in the employers’ side, the Liberals looking after their friends including the ICBA and their friends. That makes it very difficult to organize a union,” said Lanzinger. “We’ve seen cases where a majority of workers have signed a card clearly want a union. The employer has threatened. They have, we call them ‘closed shop’ or captive audience meetings with the employee group, they’ve threatened to fire the employees who organize the union, they put anti-union messages on video screens in the workplace.”
Lanzinger added that the system that is proposed by the NDP was previously in effect in B.C. She gave an example that the proposed system would see where the union was automatically certified by the Labour Relations Board if at least 60 percent of workers signed cards. If less than 60 percent but more than 40 percent signed up, that would then require a secret ballot vote by the employees.
“It just is a fairer process if we get rid of that employer intimidation,” added Lanzinger. “We need some fairness and balance. We need rules around employer interference which have been taken away.”
With files from The Vancouver Sun: http://vancouversun.com/news/politics/b-c-greens-kill-ndps-proposed-change-to-unionized-secret-ballots