Le Blogue Broadbent

Conservatives vote for lower wages, crappy benefits

The Conservative government just made headway in their push to weaken unions and drive wages down.

Legislation amending the Canada Labour Code and the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act is heading to the Senate after cabinet ministers and Conservative MPs lined up behind a caucus colleague's private member's bill to secure its passage at Third Reading in the House of Commons on Wednesday night.

Bill C-525, introduced by Alberta Conservative MP Blaine Calkins and drafted without consulting either the employer or union side, makes it tougher for workers to form a union under federal jurisdiction and easier to decertify one.

In addition to increasing the number of membership cards needed to trigger a certification vote, it eliminates the option to form a union through majority card check.

Currently, a union is certified if a majority of voters sign up for membership. If the Senate rubber stamps the bill, a ballot vote will be required, leaving workers vulnerable to intimidation by employers, false promises and threats. Studies show this step decreases the number of attempts to unionize and reduces their rate of success.

Here's what weakened unions means:

Drive wages down

On average, the hourly wages of unionized workers are almost $5 higher than non-unionized workers.

Hurt the middle class

A senior executive at Canadian Pacific summed up what unions accomplish during a recent roundtable discussion"When you talk to anyone remotely connected to the world, they understand the role of unions providing what we have today. They're a key driver in the creation of the middle-class, for the reduction of work hours, paid vacation, all sorts of benefits that we all enjoy," said Peter Edwards, CP's vice-president of human resources and labour relations.

Weaken the economy

Higher wages received by unionized workers injected an additional $786 million into the Canadian economy each week in 2013. Internationally, the World Bank has also identified the positive role that unions play in national economies, showing that "higher levels of unionization lead to higher income equality, lower unemployment and inflation, higher productivity and speedier adjustments to economic shocks."

Drive up poverty rates 

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) looked at some of the world's most developed countries to compare the impact of unionization on a country's poverty rate, and found that the lower the unionization rate, the higher the poverty rate.

Photo: momandsonUsed under a Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 licence.