Right to Work Legislation in Parliament

December 11, 2012 | Gerald D. Chipeur, KC

Has right to work legislation been introduced in Parliament? Not yet. However, the seed has been planted.

In the fall of 2012, Mr. Pierre Poilievre, M.P. and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, issued a public letter expressing the view that an employee governed by the Canada Labour Code should not be forced to associate with the Public Service Alliance of Canada (“PSAC”) and should not be forced to pay dues to PSAC.

Mr. Poilievre also created a “Petition to the Government of Canada for Workers’ Freedom” and has asked Canadians to contact his office to sign the Petition.

Three reasons are given by Mr. Poilievre for his initiative:

  1. The Charter guarantee of Freedom of Association (he asserts that since no Canadian is forced to speak or to join a church, no Canadian should be forced to associate against their will);
  2. The decision by PSAC to expend $1,694,900 on political action in 2011, regardless of whether each member supported the PSAC funded causes;
  3. The decision by PSAC to support the Montreal student protestors with a $5,000 donation, even though the actions of the protestors were illegal and unrelated to any federal workplace.

Notwithstanding these initiatives by Mr. Poilievre, there has been no private members bill introduced in Parliament on this subject matter and there will not be in the short term. This is likely because a Parliamentary Secretary may not introduce a private members bill. Furthermore, the approach advocated by Mr. Poilievre is currently not the express policy of the Minister of Labour, the Honourable Lisa Raitt.

The initiative of Mr. Polievre is significant for a number of reasons.

First, the number of “right to work” States south of the border has grown to 24, with the addition of Michigan just this month. The trend may now be extending further north, as there is now, for the first time, a real debate in Canada about the issue.

Second, when public sector employees in the States of Washington, Idaho, Utah, Indiana, Colorado and Wisconsin were given freedom to not have union dues or political donations from union dues deducted from their pay cheques, tens of thousands of employees chose not to do so. It is likely that Canadian public sector employees would respond in the same way.

Third, at least one Member of Parliament, Mr. Russ Hiebert, has introduced legislation impacting union finances. His Bill C-377 would require unions to disclose financial information about the use of union dues that have been collected in Canada. If Bill C-377 passes, other, similar labour relations legislation may follow by way of private members’ bills. The likelihood of passage has been improved by the December 7, 2012 amendments to Bill C-377 relating to privacy and business concerns. It is anticipated that the House of Commons will vote on third reading of the amended Bill C-377 on Wednesday, December 12, 2012. If the bill passes in the House of Commons, it will go to the Senate for consideration.


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