June 15, 2012
Canadian piping trades mobilize on federal union disclosure Bill C-377
An official with the union representing Canadian piping trades is puzzled by the federal government’s plan to repeal the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act and a private member’s bill that proposes to make union financial statements public.
“The Fair Wages Act is a good way to ensure that the client gets qualified workers because if you allow the contractors to control the wages, without any kind of checks and balances, then you end up with low wages and low skills,” said Larry Cann, assistant to the general president of the Canadian affiliate of United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting industry of the United States and Canada.
“We’re not saying it has to be union but jobs shouldn’t be won on cheap labour.”
The Fair Wages Act requires that every contract made with the federal government for construction, remodelling, repair or demolition be subject to conditions including wages which are “generally accepted as current for competent workmen in the district in which the work is being performed.”
In an interview with the Daily Commercial News, Cann noted the UA has been working with the Prime Minister’s Office on issues related to jobs in skilled trades, including immigration of skilled workers, pipelines and oil sands projects.
Last April, both the UA and the Canadian Building Trades came out in favour of the federal government’s plan to address the backlog in the federal skilled worker program and to create a just-in-time system that recruits people within months.
The Canadian Building Trades also announced in January it was in favour of reforming the regulatory approval process for projects such as Enbridge Inc.’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to Kitimat, B.C. Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver later announced plans to move towards a “one project one review” system.
The Canadian Building Trades has also come out in favour of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
Cann said UA officials have been talking with members of parliament about Bill C-377, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (labour organizations), which is not a government bill but is sponsored by Russ Hiebert, a Conservative Vancouver-area backbencher.
Hiebert’s bill would require unions and other labour organizations to submit financial statements to the government, and ultimately the public.
Among other things, unions would have to publish all payments of more than $5,000, including the name and address of the payer and payee, the purpose and description of the transaction.
“In our conversations with the government and different MPs we have asked them ‘Why the bill?’ and their response has been, ‘Well it’s about transparency.’ My question to them is, ‘Have you had any union members in your ridings complain to you?’ I have not had one, in the numerous ones I have talked to, who came back with a yes.”
Cann added most UA locals make audits available to their members.
“We’re saying (to the Conservatives), ‘Why would you create animosity with us when we want to work with you? We want the same thing. We want jobs.”
He added UA has been successful in working with the Canadian Association of Oil Producers in supporting oil sands development.
“As much as we may not be a Conservative-supporting organization, we do support business,” he said.“If our contractors do not go to work, if our clients aren’t happy, then my members don’t work.”
The proposed repeal of the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act is part of the government omnibus budget bill.
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