Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
Can you provide some of the rationale for having terminated the automatic checkoff for the legal fund? Presumably nothing substantial has changed from the point of view of needing that fund or in the way the fund works, so why make it more difficult for the fund to operate now?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
It sounds to me as though the legal fund has been a long-standing institution within the RCMP for decades. It's not itself seeking to organize, is it? I don't know what the relationships are here, but there is a substantive matter of legal protection and access to resources for RCMP members in the interim. It could be a long interim.
Is there not a sense that because this eliminates or makes more difficult some substantial protection for RCMP members, there is an obligation to make sure that the interests the legal fund serves can continue to be served in that interim period?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
If we're going to refer to the Supreme Court judgment, it was silent on the method of choice. It doesn't say that choice means 50% plus one and it doesn't say that it means a secret ballot.
I think there's a long history. What's really at stake here is the principle of card check and whether card check is a good certification. What's also at stake is the question of whether RCMP members are going to continue to be treated differently from other workers.
I think the Supreme Court decision was clear that part of what was wrong with the previous law was that RCMP members have a right to bargain collectively. They have a right to be treated the way other workers have been treated, and that means certifying under the rules that obtain for other workers.
I would respectfully disagree that there's a special case to be made about the method of certification for RCMP members. If it's good enough for every other federally regulated group to certify under a card-check system, then it's good enough for RCMP members. I don't think that there's anything extra or special that you get out of having this particular system for RCMP members and not for everyone else.
I think it's appropriate in this context, because the real issue is card check. Card check was brought in partly because we know that when you have a fixed date for a vote and a lead-up to the vote, in some cases—not to say every employer is going to do this—it creates an opportunity for the employer to engage in various types of intimidation in the lead-up to the vote. Having a card check system is a protection for other workers. I think RCMP members deserve the same protection. For that reason, I don't support this amendment.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
Before we vote, I take your point. I'm proud of the federal government and I'm proud of the RCMP, but I don't think that kind of emotional indignation has a role in setting good process. Good process for certification should be set according to our conception of what a good process is.
I take it you have some arguments on process that I disagree with, but I think that trying to introduce this notion that somehow we're offending the institution by asking questions about what a good process is or that we're slighting RCMP management or the federal civil service and Treasury Board to say these things may happen is wrong. We need a good process that protects people trying to organize, regardless of our feelings about the employer. I think good employers understand that, and I have confidence that RCMP management and civil service management won't take it the wrong way, Mr. O'Toole.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
The Supreme Court decision didn't require unionization of the RCMP. What it required was that unionization of the RCMP was not prohibited.
We hear, “Have RCMP members already pronounced or not on whether they want a union?” Well, they weren't allowed to pronounce on that, and still aren't, until we pass a bill that allows them to. The certification process is the process by which we will come to know whether a majority of RCMP members want to have a union. We need a good process to be able to do that. The card-check system is a private system. They'll sign their card in private. It will be submitted. That's another way for them to privately express their desires with regard to whether or not they want to have a union.
I think that's an important distinction. Part of what we're doing here is enabling a process whereby RCMP members will be able to pronounce with authority whether they want a union. The court didn't decide that. We're trying to set up a process so they can decide that for themselves.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
Yes, please. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I don't know if this would be in order, but the first two amendments are largely the same. They're to give clarity to the same term. If you would like to consider them together, I'm not opposed to that. I don't know if it's in order.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
The purpose of this amendment is to add to the section beneath requirements for certification that says “for greater clarity”. It's also to provide greater clarity as to what exactly “affiliation” means. The law as it reads now is vague with respect to affiliation, and vagueness cuts both ways. I think it would be right for us to give a more definite shape to what exactly “affiliation” is going to mean.
If RCMP members choose to certify, it's going to be a new union that represents them. There is currently no national union that has as its mandate to represent only members of the police. It may be that this union will want to avail itself of some of the expertise that already exists in the labour movement. This could come in the form of a service contract or in some other form, even space-sharing. If a union is certified to represent RCMP members, it's going to have to spread across the country and to remote and rural areas. It may be that it would be helpful to co-operate with other friendly organizations to get space that they otherwise wouldn't immediately have a budget to rent.
To have the vague term “affiliation” hanging over their head when trying to do that would be of concern to that organization. “Affiliation” also appears in the clause having to do with revocation of certification. If you have a new organization and you're trying to resource yourselves and extend your reach across a vast country, you may want to have some help and allies.
I think we could do them a favour by making it clear what “affiliation” means and by creating some space for them to avail themselves of those opportunities. This could be in the form of co-operation in getting space on a pro bono basis or by entering into a service contract. It could also be by entering into a lease agreement with another union that already has space. Right now, if you just say “affiliation”, it could be brought against them that by leasing space from another union they're now affiliated with that union.
I think that would be ridiculous. It's incumbent on us to create space within the legislation to permit that kind of association, which is not one that, in my view, would jeopardize the independence of that organization. It's simply a service contract. They would be free to make such a contract with commercial interests. I don't think it makes sense to potentially prohibit them from renting space from another organization simply because it's a union and not a private landlord.
I think we need to bring clarity to what “affiliation” means so that it's there at the outset. This way, if it's brought into being, they will be able to use resources available to them without the threat of having a decertification action brought against them.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
I think it might serve the committee well if I read parts of the amendment, because I think some of those concerns are very clearly addressed in the amendment itself. When we talk about whether it would be the RCMP union being part of.... I think actually the term at the turn of the last century was One Big Union, but I don't think this amendment would permit that at all.
We say that:
an employee organization is considered to be affiliated with a bargaining agent or other association when:
The employee organization would be affiliated if it:
joins or becomes a member of a bargaining agent or other association;
The employee organization would also be affiliated if it:
is bound together with or controlled by a bargaining agent or other association through constitutional obligations; or
the employee organization engages in a relationship with a bargaining agent or other association in which the other party exercises a substantial degree of control, direction, or restriction on the activity of the employee organization.
I hear your concerns. I completely agree with the argument that it should be a separate union for police officers. I think the fact that they're authorized to use force creates a very different situation, but I think this clarification on what affiliation would mean protects that. That's the point and the purpose of it.
I do definitely hear that argument, but I also think we need to give some certainty to a fledgling organization so that if it does partner with other organizations that have expertise in what the RCMP organization would be just beginning to do, it would not be held over their head. I strongly disagree with Mr. O'Toole suggestion that this is the thin edge of the wedge. The provisions in this amendment very clearly rule out the kinds of associations that Mr. O'Toole has articulated—clearly.
I would say the rebuttal to that argument is right in the amendment.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
Actually, if I may, in the MPPAC submission there is a section called “Proposed amendment on affiliation”. I'll save the committee's time by not reading it out, but there's an entire section on affiliation.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
A lot of the wording for this comes right out of the MPPAC submission. It's not anything to do with the steelworkers—
The Chair: Okay. I just wanted to check that.
Mr. Daniel Blaikie: —conspiracy theories notwithstanding.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
As a quick response, I am sympathetic. Perhaps on other amendments I'll be making a similar argument, an argument that we should leave more interpretive room to the collective bargaining process and to arbitrators. However, in this case, it's exactly because of the types of concerns raised by Mr. Di Iorio and Mr. O'Toole, which I thoroughly respect—that is, the independence of this organization—that I think we do actually need some language.
We wouldn't want the interpretation happening at the arbitration level to permit situations that might actually bring that independence into question. This is a way to give clarity and protect the independence of some future RCMP union, but it would also make it clear that not all kinds of what may be construed as affiliation are impermissible.
I make no apologies for the fact that this amendment does try to define affiliation for the purpose of protecting the independence of that organization and then shows where there is room to engage in other kinds of activities that might otherwise be construed as affiliation.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
I'll say a couple of quick words, if you don't mind.
First of all, I'll emphasize again that this is something that actually came out of submissions by the MPPAC. I would say that there are some concerns about affiliation and the independence of the organization if it enters into agreements with other organizations, as the way the law is written right now there will be a question about whether a new union can enter into some kind of service contract or other agreement with a union.
However, that is not the case with a commercial lease. We're not asking about the RCMP union renting space from a landlord and thereby putting the independence of that organization in question because they now have a debt to pay to their landlord or something like that. I don't see why it would be different if they're contracting for services with the union. Just because it's another union doesn't create any more conflict of loyalty than with a landlord or other commercial service providers.
The problem with the legislation right now is that it discriminates against other unions as potential offerers of goods or services. Mysteriously, we're not concerned then about contracts with other organizations that may well also wish to exert an influence over that organization. I think there's a serious disjunct there.
I would say in response to the parliamentary secretary that I am frankly less concerned about the RCMP union exerting control over other organizations. That happens in the real world. What's important about these amendments is that they protect the RCMP union, which represents the people who are authorized to use force, from having pressures exerted on them. I do think there's a qualitative distinction there. I think it's the one that Mr. Di Iorio very eloquently put earlier.
If we accept that argument, then it's not a bidirectional road. We're more concerned about how it goes in one direction than in the other. We're more concerned about the organization that represents people who are authorized to use force having pressure exerted on them than pressure through a service agreement or other commercial arrangement that they might be exerting on someone else.
That's my response to some of the other points that were out there.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
It's the vagueness around the term “affiliation”. That was the concern expressed by the MPPAC. It was that “affiliation” isn't defined in this act, which means it's open to definition.
If we take affiliation in its sort of basic semantic sense, it's some sort of association or relationship, so without further definition, “affiliation” could mean potentially any kind of association or relationship. That's why I say it's it's meant to be in the section that provides greater clarity. It's just to specify here is what it's not, or here is what it is.
It would be anything that constitutionally joins that group to another group. It would be anything that puts it underneath. It would be anything that allows another organization to exercise a substantial degree of control, direction, or restriction. Once we know that, then things that don't engage those clauses would be seen as acceptable forms of affiliation.
It's a problem of vagueness. It's not that those arrangements are explicitly precluded from the legislation; it's that that's how it could come to be interpreted. From my point of view, that's something that will hang over the head of a start-up of a union that's looking to resource itself across the country. It's not like it's starting in one local. It is different. It's not like it's starting in a factory that will be the only place where it has to serve its members. It's going to have serve members across the entire country, in some of the most remote corners, and it's going to need to figure out how to have the resources to do that.
As the act reads right now, someone could bring a decertification action against them if they do rent space, and then that would be another headache they would have to deal with. It's expensive, because now that's going to be litigated. All of that distracts from them actually getting on with the job of representing RCMP members. I think we could do them a favour now by providing clarity on what affiliation means so there's less of that kind of risk as they prepare to represent RCMP members.
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