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Tom Graham at his office in Regina

“We are happy with the decision to get rid of both of them,” was the sentiment expressed by CUPE Saskatchewan president Tom Graham regarding the recent decision by the new Liberal government to repeal bills C-377 and C-525.

Bill C-377 imposed mandatory reporting of union finances to the public.  Bill C-525 affected workers in federally regulated areas by eliminating card certification, which many argue made it harder to accomplish union certification.  

Of the two bills “C-377 was the one we are more familiar with, and concerned about,” Graham said. According to Graham, “It was just an attack on unions and we are happy to see it gone,” he said.

The main problem with Bill C-377 was that it required unions to report “all kinds of information to the general public,” Graham said, “We don’t really want our employers to know how much money we have in the bank.”

“We don’t have any objection to our members knowing where their union dues go, we insist on that,” he added.     

Graham mentioned the legislation would have been costly and difficult for unions and the government. “We didn’t even know what we were supposed to be filing,” he said.

Graham said Bill C-525 had more of an effect on workers in federally regulated areas. Graham said the changes introduced in this legislation made it harder for workers in these areas to unionize by getting rid of card certification, a process where employees confidentially sign membership cards to indicate support for joining a union.

Getting rid of card certification and requiring that there be a second vote would have allowed employers the opportunity to engage in what Graham called “employer intimidation.”

Graham said that getting rid of card certification has real effects. “Statistically, where card certification is in place, the unionization rate is higher…where it is not in place it's lower.”

When asked what the new Liberal government means for labour Graham said he is “cautiously optimistic.”  

Andrew Stevens, a professor of business at the University of Regina who specializes in labour relations, was also a critic of the scrapped legislation.

Stevens said Bill C-377, which was sold by its proponents as being a way to make labour unions accountable, saw accountability defined in an “ideological and political charged way.”

Stevens also said the bill “circumvented the labour relations jurisdictions and the conventional approach to regulating unions by making…a very subtle amendment to the federal income tax act.”

According to Stevens, labour unions are already accountable, as they are “democratic and representative in almost every jurisdiction including Saskatchewan.”

“(Unions) have certain audit and other legal requirements. There is already as system of accountability,” Stevens said.

Meanwhile proponents of the bill are likely disappointed.  Organizations backing the bill did not respond with comments by press time.

However Merit Contractors of Canada President Terrance Oakley said to the Daily Commercial News in 2008 that “(Bill C-377) was long overdue.” Oakley went on to say, “If labour organizations want to enjoy the dual benefits of mandatory dues collection and beneficial tax treatment, they must earn it by operating in a transparent manner.”