Skilled trades workers from across Canada converged on Ottawa May 15 to meet with Members of Parliament and lobby against Bill C-377. Local 793 was represented at the event by Eastern Ontario area supervisor Rick Kerr, assistant labour relations manager Brian Alexander and business reps Jim Laginski, André Chenier and Jonathan Sprung.
IUOE Canadian director Jim Murphy and IUOE Canadian government affairs director Steven Schumann were also in attendance.
The meetings were organized by the Canadian division of the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD).
The meetings provided an opportunity for the trades to voice their concerns about Bill C-377 directly to their MPs.
Bob Blakely, director of Canadian affairs for the BCTD, said skilled trades workers from Vancouver to St. John’s are worried about the implications of the legislation and its costly negative impacts on major oil sands developments and other large-scale energy projects.
“Our workers rely on their unions to provide necessary benefits and training with the dues that they pay,” he said.
“Our partner contractors – and clients they work for – rely on them to use the skilled manpower we provide in a cost-efficient manner.
“C-377 is going to see that money spent on creating more government bureaucracy. It will slow down Canada’s economic recovery in the construction sector.”
Blakely said Bill C-377 is intended to fix a problem that does not exist and endangers the ability of the building trades to build projects across the country and create jobs.
He said it will create an expanded, expensive and redundant bureaucracy and actually duplicate processes that are already in place to provide accountability and transparency for workers.
A survey conducted by Leger Marketing indicated there is strong opposition to Bill C-377 by members of building trades unions across Canada.
Findings released in March show there is a strong sense of unfairness associated with the Bill, particularly around its focus on unions and their requirements to publicly disclose their financial information.
The building trades say the Bill will duplicate processes that are already in place to provide accountability and transparency and that it will create an expanded, expensive and redundant bureaucracy, resulting in increased compliance costs for unions.
The Bill would require labour organizations in Canada to file detailed, annual financial statements that go into much greater depth than your typical income statement and balance sheet.
Once submitted to the Canada Revenue Agency, the complete financial package would be made public for anyone to view by way of the Internet.
Conservative estimates put the additional administration costs for compliance in the neighbourhood of 20 per cent. This can be attributed to increased labour costs associated with statement tracking and preparation, and will increase the expenses of unions.
Meanwhile, union pension and benefit plan administrators would also be faced with additional administrative costs.
A component of the Bill requires that the union disclose any trust fund transaction or disbursement (i.e. health and welfare payment, pension payment, etc.) to a member in excess of $5,000, accompanied with the name and address of the recipient, and the purpose for the payment.