Yesterday the current Ontario government introduced changes to the Labour Relations Act which strip away many of the measures implemented by its predecessor. According to Liberal Labour Minister Chris Bentley, the Labour Relations Statute Law Amendment Act, 2004 (Bill 144) is designed to restore a sense of balance to Ontario’s labour laws after thirteen years of ideological swinging between NDP and Conservative administrations.
Highlights of Bill 144:
Introducing Punitive Measures for Employers and Unions who violate labour laws
The Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) will once again have the power to grant automatic union certification when an employer violates labour laws. This measure is intended only as a last resort if no other remedy would be sufficient to counter the effects of the contravention.
Similarly if a union violates labour laws, the OLRB will have the power to dismiss the application for certification if no other remedy would be sufficient to counter the effects of the contravention. If an application is dismissed, the union would then be barred from making another application for certification for a period of one year.
Ending Mandatory Posting of Decertification Information
Under the current Act, employers are required to post decertification information in all unionized workplaces. Bill 144 proposes to eliminate this requirement for employers.
Eliminating Union Salary Disclosure
The salary disclosure provisions under the current Act which require unions to disclose the name, salary and benefits of all directors, officers and employees earning $100,000 or more a year will be eliminated under Bill 144.
Construction Industry Highlights:
Bill 144 also proposes changes which affect the construction industry only:
Reintroduction of Card-based Certification
Card-based certification will be making its return to Ontario, at least in the construction industry. Bill 144 would reestablish a card-based certification system in addition to the existing vote system in this industry. The card-based system would permit automatic union certification if more than 55 per cent of employees sign cards to join a union.
Preventing destabilising labour unrest
The current temporary special bargaining and dispute resolution regime for residential construction in Toronto and surrounding municipalities will now be a permanent feature under the Act. All collective agreements shall be deemed to expire on April 30, 2007 and every three years onwards. In addition, unions will be prevented from commencing or continuing a strike after June 15 of the year the collective agreement expires. Employers will also be prevented from commencing or continuing a lock-out after June 15 of the year the collective agreement expires.
Bill 144 has received first reading at Queen’s Park and has yet to be passed into law.
The foregoing provides only an overview. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, a qualified lawyer should be consulted.
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