CPC(M-L) HOME ontario@cpcml.ca

July 10, 2013 - Vol. 2, No. 43

By-Elections Underway

Say No to Austerity!
Defeat the Liberals and PCs!

By-Elections Underway
Vote Against the Liberals and PCs to Show Opposition to Anti-People Neo-Liberal Austerity Agenda! Vote to Oppose Liberal and Conservative Cynicism and Corruption!
General Information

Issues in the By-Elections
Phony Lockouts Used to Extort Concessions and Destroy Manufacturing
Minority Government Used to Bring in New Anti-Worker Arrangements - Dan Cerri and Enver Villamizar
Liberals and PCs Compete to Push Anti-Worker Agenda

By-Elections Underway

Vote Against the Liberals and PCs to Show Opposition to the Anti-People Neo-Liberal Austerity Agenda!
Vote to Oppose Liberal and Conservative Cynicism and Corruption!

On July 3 the writ was dropped for five by-elections in Ontario to replace four former McGuinty government cabinet Ministers, and former Premier Dalton McGuinty himself, all of whom resigned since the selection of Premier Kathleen Wynne. Voting day for all of the ridings will be Thursday, August 1.

The five ridings are: Ottawa South, which was held by former Premier McGuinty; Scarborough-Guildwood, held by former Minister of Consumer Services Margaret Best; Etobicoke-Lakeshore, held by former Minister of Education Laurel Broten, the main protagonist in the government's attack on teachers and education workers; London West, held by former Energy Minister Chris Bentley, a key figure in the gas plant scandal; and Windsor-Tecumseh, held by former Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, a leading figure in attacking the rights of workers in Ontario in the name of eliminating the deficit and paying down the debt.

These will be the second set of by-elections held in Ontario since the October 2011 general election that delivered a Liberal minority government. In that election, the Liberals received the support of 18.5 per cent of registered voters, with a record low turnout of just 49 per cent of Ontario electors. Despite this lack of legitimacy, the Liberals claimed a mandate to impose a new round of austerity focusing their attacks on teachers and education workers.

The Kitchener-Waterloo (KW) and Vaughan by-elections held on September 6, 2012 were supposed to be a chance for the Liberals to gain more seats and show they had popular support for their austerity agenda. Far from it. The by-election in KW was a debacle for both the Liberals and Conservatives who went down to defeat as the the working people united in action to give expression to the people's opposition to austerity and the violation of their rights. The people of the riding took up the call to express their opposition by defeating both the Liberals and PCs which then saw the NDP win the seat with a clear message that the people do not approve of champions of the phony austerity agenda. The intervention of the working people led to a high voter turnout for a by-election -- 47.4 per cent. This historic defeat of the Liberals and PCs deprived the Liberals of their coveted majority, and the PCs of a riding they had held for 22 years. It is a defeat neither party will soon forget and which both are determined to prove was a one shot fluke. In contrast, the by-election in Vaughan was won by the Liberals because the people did not undertake to build an organized opposition there. As a result, the turnout was as low as ever at 26 per cent.

To avert the consolidation of the workers' opposition against the austerity agenda, every effort is being made to make it appear that it is not possible to secure a win for the people's forces in these by-elections. Some declare that these by-elections do not mean much because they will not change the minority Liberal government scenario. Others claim that they are "the canary in the coal mine" for "the major parties" to sound out the mood of Ontario voters. According to them, the choice is to see if Kathleen Wynne has restored the credibility of the Ontario Liberal Party or if voters "prefer" to elect Tim Hudak's party, i.e., whether they see Hudak as capable of governing at this point in his political career. Both the Liberals and PCs are using the by-elections to sideline the working people from having any say whatsoever over the issues which concern them so as to declare that the people's faith is restored in the bogus anti-worker austerity agenda of these parties. One angle is to declare that Hudak is a greater enemy than Wynne and therefore to avert a PC victory, it is urgent to vote Liberal.

Ontario Political Forum considers all these positions to be harmful to the interests of the working people of Ontario. Both Liberals and PCs were defeated in KW despite the great odds against the people. Those who had thrown in the towel before the election even got underway despaired that the riding would either go Liberal or PC and that no other option was possible given polling or previous results. But, by mobilizing all those who wanted a clear statement made against the austerity programs, the people's forces prevailed. It proved it can be done.

Premier Wynne opened the by-elections by stating that public sector workers must submit to austerity, either through wage freezes or cuts to the social programs on which Ontarians rely, both of which are unacceptable to the working people. Clearly any victories for the Liberals will be used to claim a new mandate for austerity and attacks on workers' rights. For their part, the PCs are putting forward their version of unadulterated austerity -- no cheap talk about "fairness" or "balance" will cast a shadow on their path. According to media speculators, either the PCs make gains in these by-elections or Hudak may have to go so that the party can prepare a new leader before the next general election, expected in 2015, unless the minority Liberal government falls before that.

None of these positions present a program to resolve the crisis in favour of the people's interests. The challenge is once again to go all out to defeat both the Liberals and Conservatives to show strong opposition to the anti-people neo-liberal austerity agenda.

Ontario Political Forum calls on the working people to not hesitate -- this is what the ruling circles are banking on. Go all out to use this opportunity to give expression to genuine organized political opposition. It can be done! It must be done!

Vote Against the Liberals and Conservatives to Show Opposition to
Their Anti-People Neo-Liberal Austerity Agenda!
Vote to Oppose Liberal and Conservative Cynicism and Corruption!

Return to top

General Information

The current standings in the Legislature are:

Ontario Liberal Party: 48 seats
Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario: 36 seats
New Democratic Party of Ontario: 18 seats
Vacant: 5 seats

The total number of names on the preliminary list of electors as of June 30, 2013 in each riding and the distribution of votes for the October 2011 general election are:

Ottawa South -- 86,346
Liberal 21,842
PC 14,945
NDP 5,988
Green 1,442
Libertarian 252
Special Needs 238
Voter turnout

Scarborough-Guildwood -- 68,269
Liberal 15,607
PC 9,137
NDP 6,194
Green 413
Libertarian 407
Freedom 136
Voter turnout

Etobicoke Lakeshore -- 89,550
Liberal 22,169
PC 12,705
NDP 6,713
Freedom 174
Libertarian 172
Voter turnout

London West -- 95,265
Liberal 22,610
NDP 14,603
PC 10,757
Greens 1,194
Libertarian 300
Voter turnout

Windsor-Tecumseh -- 84,998
Liberal 15,946
NDP 12,228
PC 7,751
Greens 830
Libertarian 476
Voter turnout

For information on how and who can vote visit Elections Ontario's website here.

Return to top

Issues in the By-Elections

Phony Lockouts Used to Extort Concessions and Destroy Manufacturing

Steelworkers attacked with phony lockouts underway at U.S. Steel Lake Erie Works (left) and Max Aicher North America.

An issue being raised by the working class at this time which governments are duty-bound to address is the use of phony lockouts by monopolies, particularly those based in the U.S., to extort concessions from workers and/or destroy manufacturing, moving production to "cheaper" jurisdictions -- which end up being jurisdictions where the public purse and right-to-be-a-slave labour laws are used to pay companies to relocate.

One thousand locked out steelworkers from U.S. Steel's Lake Erie Works facility represented by United Steelworkers Local 8782 are currently facing this scenario and demanding that governments intervene to defend their rights rather than the rights of the steel monopoly. The Ontario government is duty-bound to defend the workers as it was the McGuinty government which facilitated U.S. Steel's purchase of Stelco under the guise that U.S. Steel was too big to fail and would maintain production at its Hamilton and Lake Erie Works facilities. Since that time U.S. Steel has used every kind of blackmail and schemes to attack the workers. The workers' particular demand of the federal overnment was for Employment Insurance Benefits in response to a phony lockout by the company, set up as a means to extort concessions and shift production elsewhere. The union points out in a press release: "USW Local 8782 was notified at the end of the business day from the Assistant Deputy Minister for Service Canada that a decision had been made for disentitlement to Employment Insurance Benefits for the locked out workers of U.S. Steel Lake Erie Works."

"The Union strongly believes this was strictly a political decision and certainly not based on the facts or merits of the situation the workers face with a Global Company such as U.S. Steel and the manipulation of production levels to south of the border in depressed market conditions."

"This is the third time in 3 years U.S. Steel has manipulated contract negotiations and locked out the workers of Lake Erie Works and Hamilton to justify moving production to the United States and use these situations to be opportunistic in trying to extract major concessions from the workers."

"The workers of U.S. Steel Canada continue to suffer because the Federal Government lacks the political will and fortitude to make U.S. Steel live up to their Investment Canada Act undertakings when purchasing Stelco in the fall of 2007. The decision of disentitlement of E.I. benefits by the Federal Government supports those violations of the Investment Canada Act. This has been witnessed through other purchases made under the Investment Canada Act with companies like Rio Tinto, Vale, Caterpillar (Electro Motive Diesel) and Max Aicher. These issues should be front and center with every worker in Canada as these Global Corporations purchase Canada's resources, attack the workers, drive down Canadians' standard of living to increase corporate profits and shareholder value and let's not forget the big corporate management salaries. This move is very short sighted. Who do they think will buy their products as every Canadians' disposable income is continually lowered?

"Lake Erie Works, the once crown jewel of the North American steel industry has been relegated to a secondary facility unless the market demands exceed the supply of the American operations. No one seems to ask the question of how, Lake Erie Works, once a very profitable operation has supposedly become so unprofitable. There has only been one thing that changed and that is the purchase by U.S. Steel."

The union informs that it will will be filing a formal request for reconsideration to Service Canada to begin the appeal process for its 1,000 locked out members. For information or to support the workers, contact: President Bill Ferguson 905-537-8782 or Vice President Mark Talbot 905-520-3917.

Return to top

Minority Government Used to Bring in New
Anti-Worker Arrangements

The Legislature rose for the summer on June 11, a week later than planned, in order to pass the budget that imposes four more years of austerity on the people of Ontario. The only standing committee of the Legislature meeting during the summer will be the Justice Committee, which is investigating the gas power plant cancellation scandal. The Legislature will resume sitting on September 9. The last sitting of the Legislature began on February 19 with a new Premier, Kathleen Wynne, after the fall session was prorogued by former Premier Dalton McGuinty following his resignation as Premier.

The sitting of the Legislature that just ended represents a culmination of attempts by the ruling elite to foist austerity onto the workers and people, and the continued resistance of the working class and people to it. Despite continued attempts of the parties in the Legislature to impose austerity and to block the workers' opposition, in the last year the working class and people have continued to make tremendous advances in the fight to affirm their rights. In particular, teachers, education workers and other public sector workers have been resisting the trampling of their collective bargaining rights by the Liberal government with the collaboration of the "opposition" Hudak Conservatives.

The Necessity for a Modern Definition of Rights

Premier Kathleen Wynne's government has tried to make the issue one of "fairness," which has revealed itself to be another way to try to justify austerity. The working class will not accept such conceptions. The fight of the teachers and education workers put the affirmation of rights forward as the issue. On this basis, other workers have joined in, supporting them because an attack on one section of the working class is an attack on all and the new arrangements being brought in will be used against all workers, especially if they do not accept the government's parameters. Workers recognize this and will not be coaxed into accepting a "fair" way of having their rights violated. The fight of teachers and education workers in Ontario, as in other parts of Canada, has put the issue of the need for a new and modern definition of rights on the agenda as a topic for serious discussion among the workers to sort out how to continue to defend their rights.

Sitting Characterized by New Arrangements to Impose Austerity

Similar to the Harper government and others across Canada that are attacking collective bargaining rights, one of the Wynne government's main methods has been to bring in new arrangements for what is being called "restrained collective bargaining." It has put in place parameters that workers must accept, which turn out to be "negotiations" about how austerity will be implemented. These parameters also seek to block workers from participating and defending their rights.

As part of the new arrangements the ruling circles are demanding, Wynne's government has also used extra-parliamentary bodies such as the Ontario Labour Relations Board to criminalize workers' political opposition. In this way the anti-worker attacks are presented as though they are coming from "independent" or "neutral" bodies. Although these bodies are supposed to be neutral, the Wynne government has continued to use ministerial prerogative powers to keep these bodies within the government's dictated parameters. This has been the case with teachers and education workers, as the Wynne government upheld McGuinty's imposed contracts and then the Labour Relations Board ruled that the "agreements" were legitimate despite their not being agreed to, and that any coordinated opposition in the form of the withdrawal of extra-curricular or voluntary activities would constitute an illegal strike.

The government has also continued to threaten and force locally elected school boards to fall within its austerity parameters, usurping their decision-making authority. The financial manager imposed on the Windsor-Essex Catholic Board was used to attack retirees and steal their retirement benefits, issuing a bogus order supposedly to uphold the Education Act.

Also of importance are measures to subject arbitrators to government control in collective bargaining, which the Hudak PCs are pushing hard for, and implementation of a Financial Accountability Officer. All of these schemes remove people from participating in sorting out problems themselves and instead make everything an issue of state power in the name of "protecting the economy."

Build the Independent Politics of the Working Class in the By-Elections!

With by-elections now called for August 1, workers and their organizations can use them as an opportunity to defeat the Liberals and PCs and make headway in reversing the anti-social offensive and overall pay-the-rich direction that Ontario has been taking since the early 1990s, first under the Rae NDP, then under the Harris/Eves Conservatives and now the McGuinty/Wynne Liberals. To deliberate as an organized force is the first step to turning things around so that the crisis is resolved in favour of the people, not the rich.

Return to top

Liberals and PCs Compete to Push
Anti-Worker Agenda

Under Premier Dalton McGuinty it was the Liberals who took the lead in attacking the workers backed up by the Progressive Conservatives' calls for more. In the current Legislature it is the PCs that have taken the lead while the Liberals try to present themselves as having the ability to deliver the same results as the PCs but using "less prescriptive" methods. The PCs tabled a swath of anti-worker legislation including right-to-be-slave-labour laws (which they call "right to work") in the last sitting as part of their scheme. The PCs' hope is that if elected in a general election they can ram through their anti-worker legislative agenda in the same manner as the Harper government at the federal level, with its anti-worker, anti-national, pro-monopoly agenda. No doubt if the PCs win a seat or a number of seats in the by-elections they will declare a mandate to continue attacking the working people in an "open" manner in the Legislature. In some cases the Liberals have voted against some of the PCs' anti-worker legislation claiming it "too prescriptive." In other cases, the Liberals have openly supported the PCs' legislation, voting in favour to move it to second reading, as in the case of anti-worker legislation in the construction sector, as it coincides with their version of the austerity agenda and the private monopoly interests they represent. To arm the working people to defeat the PCs' attempt at an electoral coup, and the Liberals use of the PCs to divert from their own anti-worker agenda, Ontario Political Forum is providing the status of the main anti-worker legislation put forward by the PCs and a brief summary of their contents and where they stand.

Bill 5, Comprehensive Public Sector Compensation Freeze Act, 2013

Mover: Peter Shurman. Status: February 28 passed second reading, referred to the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly

This bill, introduced immediately after the Throne Speech proceedings, would impose a two-year freeze on wages and all forms of compensation for all workers in the broader public sector, including those employed by the provincial government, Crown corporations, municipalities, health care facilities and educational institutions. The Liberals and NDP both spoke against the bill but it passed second reading by a vote of 36 for and 35 against. All the Conservatives voted for it and not enough Liberals and NDP voted to stop the bill. The bill went to a standing committee and will return for a third reading.

Bill 17, Workplace Safety and Insurance Amendment Act (Alternate Insurance Plans), 2013

Mover: Randy Hillier. Status: February 28 passed at first reading

This bill would destroy the workers' compensation system in Ontario by allowing employers to "opt out" of Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) coverage and replace it with coverage by private insurance companies. As well, the amendments to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act that came into effect on January 1, 2013, extending mandatory coverage of workers in the construction industry, would be repealed. This would affect mainly independent contractors who must be covered by WSIB as of January 1, 2013. The workers' movement is demanding the extension of WSIB coverage to all workers; currently many employers are exempt (e.g, banks and insurance companies).

Bill 22, Helping Ontarians Enter the Skilled Trades Act, 2013

Mover: Garfield Dunlop. Status: March 28 defeated at second reading

This bill would allow employers of tradespeople to increase the ratio of apprentices to journeypersons to 1:1, i.e., permit them to hire one apprentice for each journeyperson. Presently, a typical ratio is one apprentice for every five journeypersons. The power of ministers to establish ratios by regulation would be eliminated. The effect of this bill would be to flood the construction labour market with cheap, untrained labour and would reduce the proportion of apprentices completing their training. Apprentices typically start at wages equal to sixty per cent of the journeyperson rate. Trade unions set the ratios either by union constitution or through negotiations with employers. This enables the trades to restrict the labour market and at the same time ensure there is adequate work available for apprentices to complete their apprenticeships.

Manipulation of the apprenticeship ratios and control over the training and certification of apprentices is a key front of the anti-worker offensive with respect to the unionized building trades. Merit Contractors Association, the political organization of the anti-union contractors, has been campaigning on reduced apprentice/journeyperson ratios for the past two years. This may also be behind the interest expressed by the Harper government during the 2013 budget regarding apprenticeships and the need for increased "flexibility" to meet employers' labour needs.

Bill 25, Sick Days are for Sick People Act, 2013

Mover: John O'Toole. Status: March 21 defeated at second reading

This bill would prohibit employers in the broader public sector from compensating workers for unused sick days for any worker hired after the Act would come into effect (existing arrangements for cashing out sick days are "grandfathered"). Sick days could not be used for time off except for sickness or for caring for a relative; evidence of sickness would be required with the Minister of Labour enabled to regulate acceptable evidence. Sick days can be accumulated to be used for sickness. This legislation targets broader public sector workers in the same way teachers and education workers were targeted with respect to accumulating sick days for early retirement and adds additional prescriptive measures to sick days. It would overturn many negotiated contracts.

Bill 44, Public Sector Capacity to Pay Act, 2013

Mover: Jim Wilson. Status: April 11 defeated on second reading

This bill would amend several Acts involved in contract arbitration for essential services. In the current and previous session of the Legislature, reform of the contract arbitration system used in essential services was a focus of the anti-worker agenda of both the Liberals and Conservatives. These reforms have the immediate aim of imposing austerity contracts and the longer term aim of further limiting the rights of workers designated "essential service providers" who are prohibited by law from going on strike. Essential services workers include emergency services providers (fire, ambulance and police) and Toronto Transit Commission workers, but the main group of workers involved are hundreds of thousands of health care workers.

Bill 44 aims at the complete overthrow of the compulsory third party arbitration system currently used to settle collective bargaining disputes in essential services. This is a long-standing aim of the Conservatives. The bill revives legislation from the Harris years already declared invalid by the Supreme Court and refurbishes it slightly so it can get court approval. The bill targets the principle that essential services arbitrators should replicate the outcome that would be achieved if workers were able to go on strike. Instead, it makes arbitration a conduit for imposing government policy. The bill would add 20 additional criteria the arbitrator must consider in making an award and allow the Minister to add criteria by regulation. It would create a board for officially informing arbitrators about the "facts" of the labour market and would create a permanent stable of arbitrators approved by the government. It would also require arbitrators to provide written reasons for decisions and how the decision takes into account all of the criteria mandated which could then be challenged in court.

Although the Liberals are also proposing to "reform" arbitration in order to impose their austerity agenda, they voted against the Conservative bill, calling it "too prescriptive." Premier Wynne boasted that her government was achieving wage freeze contracts in essential services through administratively managing the arbitration system. Health care workers' collective agreements are the main target of Wynne's management of arbitration, which includes bullying of arbitrators and blackmailing unions with threats of legislated contracts.

The McGuinty government included some of the Conservative arbitration reform measures in the 2012 budget but they were removed by the NDP in committee. Shortly before he resigned, former Finance Minister Duncan also circulated a draft arbitration reform bill that would have imposed a regime very similar to Bill 115 on the arbitration system. The Minister would set parameters for negotiations and would have power to veto any contract arbitration that did not fall within those parameters.

Unlike the Liberal proposals for arbitration "reform" which did not include essential service workers employed by municipalities, the Conservative bill would cover all contract arbitration in the broader public sector, including fire, ambulance and police services. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario and a number of municipal politicians have come out in favour of the Conservative version of arbitration reform.

Bill 62, Defending Employees' Rights Act (Certification of Trade Unions), 2013

Mover: Randy Hillier. Status: May 1 passed at first reading

The bill would amend the Labour Relations Act to make it more difficult for unions to become certified in Ontario, especially unions in the building trades. Unions prefer certification based on having a majority of members signing union cards since this method restricts involvement of employers in the decision of the workers about whether or not to have union representation. The Harris Conservatives eliminated card-based certification and made certification votes mandatory, which gives employers the opportunity to intimidate workers and disrupt union organizing drives. The only major change in Harris labour legislation brought in by the Liberals was restoring card check-off union certification for construction unions. This bill would reset the Harris legislation by eliminating card-based certification for construction unions. It would also eliminate the discretion of the Labour Relations Board to order certification without a vote in cases of employer interference and intimidation.

Bill 63, Labour Relations Amendment Act (Ontario Labour Relations Board), 2013

Mover: Randy Hillier. Status: May 1 passed at first reading

The bill would amend the Labour Relations Act with the following provisions: eliminate the stated purpose of the Act; give ministers executive power to set the rules and procedures of the Labour Relations Board (OLRB); make OLRB decisions subject to appeal by the Divisional Court; allow OLRB officials to be subpoenaed by courts and compelled to give evidence about information obtained during OLRB investigations, hearings and deliberations.

The outcome of these provisions would be to increase direct executive control over the OLRB, to hollow out the OLRB's role as an independent adjudicative body with a mandate to establish equilibrium in the workplace and to narrow the scope of the OLRB's consideration in making decisions, while broadening the scope of the courts for reconsideration of OLRB decisions. The overall effect of these provisions would be to wipe out 60 years of jurisprudence accumulated through OLRB decisions during the years of the post-war period and wreck any remaining measures that favour an equilibrium between capital and labour created by the post-war social contract.

Bill 64, Defending Employees' Rights Act (Collective Bargaining and Financial Disclosure by Trade Unions), 2013

Randy Hillier Status: May 1 passed at first reading

This is the Conservatives' version of a U.S.-style "right-to-be-a-slave" bill. It would put an end to the Rand Formula which says union dues must be paid by all employees whose jobs are covered by a collective agreement on the basis that even if they aren't union members, they benefit from collective bargaining and shouldn't be "freeriders." But Bill 64 goes much further than just getting rid of the Rand Formula and economic security for unions -- it also completely eliminates the concept of all the workers in a workplace constituting a collective bargaining unit. The bill steps around the criticism of collective bargaining "freeriders" implied in the Rand Formula by redefining what is meant by a collective bargaining unit. Under this bill, a collective bargaining unit would only include those who choose to be members of the union and pay dues; everyone else in the workplace would make whatever deals or arrangements they can with management. As the bill's explanatory note bluntly states, "An employee who is not a member of the trade union is not affected by the collective agreement."

The Conservatives are attacking the very notion of workers being a collective and making collective decisions about negotiations with the employer on the basis of the democratic principle of majority rule. An employer would have the ability to divide workers in the same workplace by providing a range of different wages, benefits and working conditions. Collective action would be very difficult in a situation where employers can with impunity reward or punish workers based on whether or not they are union members.

This bill also takes up the phony issue of union transparency as in the Harper government's Bill C-377. That bill requires the listing of union expenditures with the Canada Revenue Agency in a way that no other corporations or organizations are required to do. This listing requirement is a prelude to Harper prescribing what unions can and can't spend their funds on. Bill 64 takes that next step and outlaws any union expenses not directly related to collective bargaining. It says employers cannot collect union dues from employees on behalf of a union except for that portion of dues directly related to collective bargaining. Union dues used by unions for other purposes, such as political action campaigns, must be specifically authorized by the union member in writing.

Bill 73, Fair and Open Tendering Act (Labour Relations for Certain Public Sector Employers in the Construction Industry), 2013

Mover: Michael Harris. Status: May 16 passed at first reading

This bill targets the collective agreements various building trades unions and building trades councils have in place with employers in the broader public sector such as school boards and municipalities. The collective agreements in place are of two types: contracts for workers directly employed by public sector enterprises and contracts public sector employers have signed with unions and trade union councils requiring the use of union labour on projects.

The Conservative bill would simply rip up these contracts: "On the day this section comes into force, the following are terminated: all collective agreements made...between a public sector employer, on the one hand, and a trade union or council of trade unions, on the other hand, that represents employees of the employer who are employed in the construction industry."

Under Bill 73, unions of construction workers directly employed by a public sector employer would maintain their certification. However, these organizations would be excluded from provisions in the Labour Relations Act specific to the construction industry, such as provincial bargaining between geographic councils of employers and councils of building trades unions. Construction workers employed by public sector enterprises would be treated as craft bargaining units regulated by the general provisions of the Labour Relations Act.

The contracts between public enterprises and trade union councils for supply of union labour for projects would also be ripped up. This would open up these projects to low-ball bidding by double-breasted contractors (contractors using both union and non-union labour) and to anti-union contractors. The effect of the bill would be to create downward pressure on all construction wages, create more hazardous working conditions and disrupt the training of apprentices.

Bill 74, Fairness and Competitiveness in Ontario's Construction Industry Act, 2013

Mover: Monte McNaughton. Status: May 16 passed second reading, sent to Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs

Bill 74 was openly supported by the Liberals and passed at second reading. The NDP voted against the bill. Like Bill 115 stripping teachers and education workers of their rights, this bill is really a collaboration between the Liberals and Conservatives. It is a collaboration of these political parties of the rich to serve the very specific private interest of EllisDon, a dominant monopoly operating in Ontario and one of the largest general contractors in Canada.

The effect of the Bill 74 will be to extinguish the currently existing union recognition obligations of EllisDon on projects in all regions of Ontario outside the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Bill 74 is specifically targeted at an existing labour contract between EllisDon and the Construction and Building Trades Council of Sarnia and Lambton County. If the legislation is passed, that contract will be extinguished. Extinguishing EllisDon's contract with the Sarnia area building trades will also have the effect of extinguishing EllisDon's legal obligation to use only union contractors on Ontario projects.

The situation the bill addresses arises out of legislation in 1979 establishing provincial bargaining in the construction industry. That legislation also extended local union recognition agreements into province-wide union recognition agreements for general contractors, including EllisDon. All of these province-wide recognition agreements were extinguished by the Harris government with Bill 69 in 2000. The only exceptions were the recognitions agreements in the GTA and the EllisDon agreement with the Sarnia area building trades. EllisDon chieftain Don Smith led the construction monopolies in supporting Bill 69 and he has been fighting the Sarnia building trades agreement in the courts for years.

The OLRB recently ruled that the contract was valid but gave EllisDon 24 months to get legislation extinguishing the contract passed. It appears that the Liberals, the Conservatives and EllisDon have worked out a deal for getting that done in time to meet the OLRB deadline. EllisDon is a long time patron of the Liberal Party. Don Smith was president of the Ontario Liberal Party for three terms in the 1980s. The Liberal government awards EllisDon billions of dollars in contracts every year.

Bill 94, Labour Relations Amendment Act (Bargaining Units and Certification of Trade Unions), 2013

Mover: Jim McDonell. Status: June 10 passed at first reading

This is another bill aimed mainly at construction workers and their unions. It adopts some of the provisions in the other Conservative bills, such as elimination of the card check-off for construction union certification and eliminating the discretion of the OLRB to certify a union as a remedy for company interference and intimidation of workers or union officials. It also would eliminate the exceptions for construction unions regarding requirements under the Act to hold strike votes. Most of the rest of the measures involve details of the certification which, taken together constitute barriers to unionization in the construction sector, including: requiring hearings on all certification applications, changing current practice in establishing construction sector bargaining units based on geographical and sector orientation in a way that favours employers stacking certification votes; putting the onus of proof on workers and unions complaining to the Labour Board about intimidation rather than on the company as is now the case.

Return to top


Read Ontario Political Forum
Website:  www.cpcml.ca   Email:  ontario@cpcml.ca