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A Little C-4 to Blow it All Up! New Federal Legislation Aims to Repeal Recent Employer-Friendly Improvements to Canada Labour Code

Practice Areas: Labour Relations

Introduced by the new federal government mere months after its election, Bill C-4, aims to return the advantages conferred on unions under the former provisions of the Canada Labour Code, almost before they were ever missed.

You may recall that only 18 months ago the then-Conservative government passed Bill C-525 which, among other things, introduced several changes to the Canada Labour Code.  At the time, we wrote that the changes would “level the playing field” in matters of union certification and decertification, requiring both types of representation application to be decided by secret-ballot vote and setting appropriate thresholds for support to trigger that vote.  This was heralded as a positive change since the old system required only card-based support for certification whereas the decertification process was much more difficult and cumbersome.

The other significant change under Bill C-525 that was viewed (at least in these circles) as an effort to restore fairness to the system was the removal of strict limitations on the availability to employees of the decertification process itself.

Unfortunately, it appears as though the Liberal government is poised to essentially repeal both of these aspects of change, despite the fact that they have so far been in place for only a year (Bill C-525 came into force June 16, 2015).  Noted Arbitrator/Mediator and former Vice-Chair of the Canada Industrial Relations Board (“CIRB”) Mr. Graham Clarke recently delivered a paper to the Law Society of Upper Canada entitled “Federal Labour Law 2016: Back to the Future”.  In it he notes that the proposed changes under Bill C-4 will “reinstated the card-based certification regime the CIRB had applied for decades” and that “changes to the revocation process [decertification] will protect bargaining agents [unions] during two specific vulnerable periods.”  The “vulnerable periods” refer to:

  1. When no collective agreement is in place; and
  2. When the union has acquired the right to strike.

In addition, Bill C-4 will raise the threshold of support necessary for the CIRB to even entertain a decertification application from 40% to the majority support level of 50% plus 1.

As always, we will continue to monitor the progress of this proposed legislation.  However, having just passed Second Reading without any amendment – not to mention that these issues were raised during the election as part of the Liberals’ successful campaign platform – it seems inevitable that Bill C-4 will come to pass.  In the interim, the lawyers at CCPartners have the expertise to assist you with any Code­-related issues, as well as to prepare you to deal with this transition.  Click here for a list of lawyers at CCPartners who can help.

Please Note: This blog has been prepared as an informational service for our clients and other interested parties. It is not intended to constitute legal advice, a complete statement of the law or opinion on any subject. Although we endeavour to ensure the accuracy of the content, no one should act upon the information provided without a thorough examination of the law after the facts of a specific situation are fully considered.



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