It’s not only in developing countries that trade unions face attacks, although there is usually much less outright violence. But the universal human rights of freedom of association and freedom to bargain collectively are as relevant in an industrialised economy like Canada as any of the countries I’ve covered so far. And they’re under attack in Canada just like they are elsewhere.
Canada is often touted as the poster-boy for growth through austerity policies because in the 1990s, cuts in public spending were followed by increases in GDP. The Canadian trade union movement (CLC) points out that having a booming economy right next door to suck in suddenly cheaper Canadian exports had a lot to do with it, and the cuts did lasting harm to Canadians’ social wage.
Now Canadian right-wingers are going after one of the strongest (by union density, although wounded by the global financial crisis) trade union movements in the G8 of industrialised countries.
Earlier this year, in Ontario, the Liberal government enacted Bill 115, declaring it illegal for the province’s elementary and secondary school teachers to strike for at least the next two years. (The bill also imposes a wage freeze and other strict terms on the teachers’ collective bargaining agreements.)
More recently, the Conservative Government of Steophen Harper has supported a measure which, according to CLC President Ken Georgetti, would “harass unions, invade the personal privacy of Canadians and cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.”
The so-called Private Members’ Bill C377 applies more onerous financial reporting requirements to unions than almost anyone else. Government support railroaded the Bill at breakneck speed through its last stages (something Canadian conservatives seem to have learnt from anti-union Republicans in the US midwest) to prevent public scrutiny. The Canadian Bar Association said that Bill C-377 invades personal privacy, is probably unconstitutional and should be withdrawn.
An attack on unions anywhere is an attack on unions everywhere, so we send our seasonal solidarity today to the Canadian Labour Congress.