July 27, 2012

Paths to Prosperity: Flexible Labour Markets – is the second in a series of Ontario PC white papers and it offers bold new ideas to modernize Ontario’s labour laws, workplace regulations and government agencies. The paper proposes action in four key areas: giving the individual worker a choice whether to become or remain a union member; making union leaders more accountable to unionized employees; modernizing outdated tendering rules by opening up more government infrastructure work to free-market competition; and reforming Ontario’s workplace agencies to encourage, not discourage, a more flexible workforce and job creation.

The world and our economy have changed, but Ontario’s rules governing the workplace and the way unions are organized have not. It’s time to open up economic opportunities for individual workers, not union bosses. These changes will restore balance between the power of union leaders and that of the individual workers. Current labour laws allow union leaders to negotiate contracts with companies that:

o Require workers, as a condition of employment, to be a union member,

o Require workers to pay dues or fees to a union in order to keep their jobs, even when they do not agree with the organizations that their union dues are supporting.

Currently, within unionized workplaces, dues are automatically deducted from paychecks with little to no accountability. Union leaders are not required to publicly disclose how the money is spent and the money can be used for purposes that many employees disagree with. Employees can also be passed over for promotion or even lose their jobs for reasons that have nothing to do with their qualifications or competence. They can even be fired for refusing to pay dues. If one doesn’t feel well-served by a union, they should be able to look after their own needs. It will make unions more responsive to the workers they are supposed to serve and whose rights they are supposed to protect.

The Ontario PC Caucus is proposing to give workers an expanded choice when it comes to becoming and remaining a union member, or not, by ensuring a worker has the option of paying or not paying union dues. Giving workers the choice simply means that individuals who don’t want to belong to a union or pay union dues don’t have to. No one should be fired from their job, or not hired for a job, simply because they aren’t a union member. Individual workers like these reforms because it allows them to keep more of their paycheck as take-home pay, and businesses like these reforms because flexible labour markets increase economic growth.

Rigid, outdated labour laws are a barrier to productivity and innovation that slows economic growth and deters investment. Ontarians will thrive in a future of balanced budgets, lower taxes, affordable energy and a well-educated, competitive workforce, but to help get there, we must modernize Ontario’s workplace laws, regulations, and agencies.

The Ontario PC Caucus is pro-job creation and unions should be too. Future job creation requires the rebalancing of the roles of unions, employers and workers, always with a focus on creating more jobs and opportunities. When combined with lower business taxes, affordable energy, balancing the budget and fewer regulations, I believe that bringing our labour laws into the 21st century will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and restore Ontario as the economic engine of Canada.