Two recent private member bills, Bills C-377 and C-525, propose legislative changes that would, respectively, impose financial reporting requirements on labour organizations and change the certification procedure for unions under the Canada Labour Code.
Bill C-377, titled An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations), is a private member’s bill introduced by Conservative MP Russ Hiebert that seeks to amend the Income Tax Act to establish greater reporting and disclosure requirements for labour organizations. The legislation defines a ‘‘labour organization” as:
a labour society and any organization formed for purposes which include the regulation of relations between employers and employees, and includes a duly organized group or federation, congress, labour council, joint council, conference, general committee or joint board of such organizations.
The legislation requires every labour organization to file an information return that will be made available to the public. The original version of Bill C-377 contained reporting requirements that included the disclosure of detailed financial statements setting out all transactions and disbursements over $5,000 and the purpose and description of the transactions. The bill also expressly required the disclosure of the salaries of officers, directors, trustees and employees earning more than $100,000. That information would then be made publicly available. Other disclosure requirements included reporting on legal activities, labour relations activities, political activities, lobbying activities, organizing activities and collective bargaining activities.
Bill C-377 underwent substantial scrutiny in the Senate and, on June 26, 2013, the Senate proposed substantial amendments to the proposed legislation. The amendments would increase the disclosure thresholds significantly, from $5,000 to $150,000 for transactions and from $100,000 to $444,661 for salaries. Unions with less than 50,000 members would be exempted under the Senate amendments.
Bill C-377 will now return to the House of Commons, which is on summer recess, to determine whether the House will accept the Senate amendments.
Supporters of Bill C-377 argue that it increases transparency and allows union members greater access to information on how their dues are spent. Critics claim that it offends privacy laws and they cast doubt on its constitutionality. It remains to be seen whether the House of Commons will accept the amendments in the fall.
Bill C-525, titled the Employees’ Voting Rights Act, was introduced on First Reading in the House of Commons onJune 5, 2013 and seeks to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act and the Public Service Labour Relations Act to provide for certification and decertification of bargaining agents through a majority of votes in a secret ballot. Bill C-525 would replace the current ‘‘card check model,” whereby a majority of workers must sign membership cards in support of the union and no vote is required, with a new, two-step process whereby 45% of members would have to sign cards in favour of the union and a secret ballot vote would then have to be held. The legislation does not provide a specific timeframe for the vote. The union would have to win the support of a majority of all employees in the bargaining unit, not simply those who voted, in order to be certified.
Bill C-525 also introduces changes to the decertification process. Under the proposed legislation, a mandatory vote would be called if at least 45% of the members of the bargaining unit applied for revocation. In order to win the vote, the union would have to secure the support of a majority of the employees in the bargaining unit, including those who do not participate in the representation vote.
Bill C-525 is still at its early stages and will certainly be the issue of debate in the fall. It should be noted that private member’s bills are allotted limited time for consideration in the House and very few of them become law.