More than a dozen prominent Conservative Senators come out in opposition to deeply flawed anti-union bill with six others abstaining from the vote.
Ottawa (27 June 2013) – The Senate has voted to make extensive amendments to the government supported union disclosure bill, C-377, blocking the anti-union bill from becoming law.
The amendments passed by the Conservative-dominated Senate removes many of its key provisions and significantly raises reporting thresholds.
The amendments mean that the private members bill will return to the House of Commons for Members of Parliament to debate the Senate’s amendments. But with the House of Commons having risen for summer the bill will not be discussed until the fall.
Prominent Conservative Senators key in blocking passage
The Senate voted 49-33 in favour of a number of changes to the bill proposed by Conservative Senator Hugh Segal. While the government supported the original bill more than a dozen Conservative Senators voted for the amendments and six others abstained.
Segal spoke forcefully against what he felt was a deeply flawed and anti-union bill.
"The bill in its drafting, if not in its intent, had serious and, in the view of the vast majority of witnesses, fatal flaws as to the constitutional violation of Sections 92 and 91 of the British North America Act, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, freedom of speech, expression and association as protected by that very Charter of Rights and Freedoms."
Senator Segal defends fundamental labour rights
In his arguments against C-377 Segal offered a strong defense of many core labour rights:
"Freedom to invest, to grow, to build, to expand market share and to innovate are central to a strong entrepreneurial economy based on risk and productivity, sound human resource management and open regulation as sparse and minimalist as possible. That freedom cannot be exclusive or exist in a vacuum. It must coexist with the rights and freedom of association, freedom of speech, free collective bargaining, the right to organize, and the rights of both the employer side and the employee side to maximize its opportunities and aspirations through free and open negotiation."
Amendments raise thresholds for reporting
The bill, brought forward by Conservative MP Russ Hiebert, while presented as seeking greater accountability and transparency was ultimately intended as an attack on trade union rights.
Originally the bill would have forced unions to disclose all payments made to groups or individuals of $5,000 or more and required the disclosure of the names and salaries of employees paid more than $100,000. Segal’s amendments raise the reporting threshold for payments to $150,000 and to $444,661 for salaries.
Furthermore, union locals and unions with fewer than 50,000 members would be exempted from reporting.
The amendments raising the disclosure threshold for salaries to $444,661 are a direct reference to the Conservative government’s change to Brent Rathberger’s private members bill about public reporting of federal official’s salaries over $444,000 a year.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada’s largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE