In a letter written to Prime Minister Stephen Harper two days after the Conservative majority government passed Bill C-377, more commonly referred to as the "anti-union bill", Canadian Labour Congress President Ken Georgetti expressed his disgust at the government's conduct and criticizes their actions.
From the CLC website
Dear Prime Minister,
On behalf of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), its affiliates and 3.3 million working men and women, I write to you to express my disgust with the recent conduct of the government regarding Bill C-377.
It is hypocritical in the extreme to proclaim fiscal conservatism and lean government, cutting front line public services like marine safety on both coasts for example, while committing tens of millions of dollars to create a wasteful bureaucracy that will serve no purpose other than to reward the Conservative Party’s political friends and punish groups that challenge your government’s policies.
The whole process surrounding Bill C-377 smacked of cynicism and lacked transparency itself. The Merit Contractors pushed this bill through your office from the beginning and your senior staff coordinated the movement of this bill through every stage of the parliamentary process.
To present this bill as serving a demonstrable need or policy objective lacks any credibility. The premise of your government’s Bill C-377 is that tax deductibility creates a public interest, however an amendment to include business organizations, whose members enjoy the same tax treatment as our members do, was voted down by all Conservative members. This confirms to us and any objective observers that this bill is nothing more than an attack on the four million hard-working Canadian union members.
It is also shameful the way this government has attempted to manipulate a piece of legislation like Bill C-377 under the guise of a Private Member’s Bill, by trying to maintain the fiction that this initiative originated with an MP rather than the government itself. The bill’s supporters have lied to Canadians when they said its costs to taxpayers and union members will be negligible. Conservative MPs have deceived Canadians when they alleged that the bill would simply apply equivalent reporting rules to unions that already govern registered charities and other organizations.
Prime Minister, your government has interfered and sided with the employers in collective bargaining with Air Canada, Canada Post and CP Rail. Your government has deliberately pushed wages down by introducing changes to employment insurance that demands unemployed workers accept job offers of up to 30 percent lower wages than their previous employment or risk their benefits being cut off. You have allowed employers to pay temporary foreign workers less than the going rate in their industry. You have repealed the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act to undercut wages on federal construction projects, and amended the Employment Equity Act to remove the requirement that federal contractors meet the same employment equity standards as federally regulated employers. Your government’s 2012 federal budget directly cut 19,200 federal public service jobs over the next three years.
Canadians have watched this government silence critics and trample opposition when challenged. We’ve seen this government’s contempt for electoral rules and for parliamentary and democratic oversight. Canadian workers are concluding that your government is turning to the labour movement to silence it and roll back its hard won gains. There can be no doubt that Conservative ideology is taking precedence over sound public policy. How else do you explain the discriminatory nature of Bill C-377, which targets only unions?
It is also quite astonishing that this bill tramples on the constitutional rights of individuals, working Canadians and the provinces. Legal experts across the country agree that this bill won’t stand up in the courts – yet your government is prepared to waste the time and resources of the labour movement, the courts and the taxpayer when this bill is ultimately challenged.
Despite all the rhetoric, especially the spin coming from MP Hiebert and the Merit Contractors, the cost of this bill will be significant. The CRA has under-estimated the cost to taxpayers, but still estimates it at over $20 million. Because of how badly the bill was written, the Parliamentary Budget Office cannot put a dollar figure on it, but knows the CRA’s estimate based on 1000 organizations reporting was inaccurate. The Parliamentary Budget Office estimates 18,500 organizations will have to report and in reality, we know that just inside the CLC it is closer to 25,000. There are another one million union members not represented by the CLC affected by this bill. In the end, the administrative costs to our membership will dramatically go up because their hard-earned dues dollars will be devoted to filling out reports and tax forms for the benefit of anti-union employers. Once our members know that their union dues will be spent on bureaucratic forms designed by anti-union employer groups, they will be outraged.
Prime Minister, there is another cost that I’m sure no one thought about when they were busy pushing this flawed bill through Parliament. There is a delicate balance that exists in labour relations that has benefited the Canadian economy. Over 99 percent of negotiations between employers and unions are settled without disruption because of that balance. The long-term collateral damage of your government’s actions will be to upset labour relations, this balance and tip the scales in favour of employers. The consequences of this will have a significant effect on labour peace and the productive capacity of Canada’s economy. I’d be willing to bet Prime Minister no one in your office gave any consideration to those consequences while rushing this bill through the House of Commons.
Prime Minister, instead of spending efforts attacking the trade union movement, which has been largely responsible for creating the middle class, our national government should have been working with the labour movement to develop strategies that enhance productivity, improve training, create decent jobs and sound labour market policy.
Kenneth V. Georgetti