Many organizations are going to be talking about the general protections and benefits for workers that the Doug Ford conservatives are eliminating today. While those benefits (like minimum wage and sick leave) are essential to raise, those rules set by legislation are the floor. Workers seeking better than the minimum possible by law know that they have to organize into unions. The conservative’s new law strips many rights and protections for workers attempting to organize their workplaces into a union.
The new Ford conservatives’ law removes the following organizing related rights and protections from workers:
- Access to a contact list: Even if 20% of workers show they want a union, you will not be able to apply for a contact list from the employer.
- Single step majority certification (card-check) for precariously employed workers like home care workers and building services workers (custodians and food services): This means that precarious workers have to face intimidation from their employer over the week in a lead-up to an in-person certification vote if they want a union.
- First contract mediation: Just getting a union no longer means a guaranteed first contract as workers will now have a limited set of tools to force employers to bargain to a first contract. Instead, the only tool is arbitration.
- Power of the Labour Board to automatically certify a union if the employer is acting against workers trying to unionize: the threat of automatic certification was one of the few threats that actually stop employer interference in the Charter protected right workers have to form a union.
- The expansion of protections against employers simply flipping to a new outsourced contract just to get a lower waged worker: employers (except for building services) will be able to get rid of a unionized outsourced service just by signing onto a new service provider. The government has made it clear that they are not going to expand this to any other service.
- Some of the most basic protections while being on strike: there are limits to what the Labour Board can now consider in response to a worker being denied their job for being involved in a strike.
- Combining bargaining power: newly organized units will no longer be able to apply to merge with larger units in a workplace.
- Structure of bargaining units: the Labour Board has been given the ability (if the employer or a union apply to it) to consolidate, restructure, or reconfigure bargaining units, create new bargaining units, or construct CAs as it sees fit. It can even pick a union in the workplace the workers did not vote for to be their union.
It is through the removal of organizing protections and undermining workers who seek unionization that the conservatives seek to guarantee that the other regressive provisions in this new law will reduce wages and benefits for workers. Taking the floor out from under workers and then also removing anything that would help workers pull themselves up exposes the conservatives’ anti-worker program.
The only response is for organized labour to put more resources into organizing workers. It is clear that workers in Ontario cannot rely on legislation to raise standards. Only through organizing unions and a constant struggle against capital at the bargaining table will we win the gains workers deserve.