Bill 87 (5 April 2005)

Debate on Bills

From Hansard - 5 April 2005

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Bill 87 The Trade Union Amendment Act, 2004
(Second Reading)
Mr. Stewart: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Mr. Deputy Speaker, its a pleasure for me to enter in debate on Bill No. 87, The Trade Union Amendment Act.

As I understand the intent of the Act, it basically deals with several issues. They are to allow the Chair of the Labour Relations Board to designate him or herself, or the Vice-Chair, to hear certain matters alone; to give board members the same privileges and immunities as justices of the Court of Queens Bench; to allow members of the board, presumably including the Chair and the Vice-Chair, to complete cases that they have been involved in after the completion of their term; and to provide powers to the board to have themselves or any appointee enter and inspect premises and question any person.

Mr. Deputy Speaker, to allow to matters between union members and unions to be heard only by the Chair or Vice-Chair of the board opens the door to even wider than it is now towards bias towards one party or another.

Mr. Deputy Speaker, every precaution must be taken to protect the most vulnerable in these kinds of matters. And all reasonable people will understand that a trade union would likely be better represented in a situation of this kind than would an ordinary employee who happens to have a complaint against his union.

Mr. Deputy Speaker, this unequal struggle is one that needs to be addressed. It is certainly not an area for any board that operates by the good graces of the provincial government should be seen to be cutting corners. These individual workers who have complaints against their unions deserve the consideration of a full panel of the Labour Relations Board, just as unions and employers do when they square off against each other.

Mr. Deputy Speaker, one might even suggest that it is an attempt by one party or another to keep complaints of this kind by employees against their own unions as quiet and as low key as possible, even though this may mitigate against the weaker party receiving justice in that situation.

Mr. Deputy Speaker, this kind of corner cutting also takes whatever balance out of situations like this that was supposed to exist with the Labour Relations Board, whether such matters were to be heard by . . . whereby such matters were to be heard by a balance of board members from trade union and employer side of issues. This so-called balance has been badly violated by this government that owes its very existence to the trade union movement.

But to proceed with this Bill would be to pretend in a very blatant fashion that no such balance was to ever exist. Mr. Deputy Speaker, as regards giving members of the board the privileges and immunities of justices of the Court of Queens Bench, it should only be considered that justices of the Court of Queens Bench are bound by very strict rules on process and procedure, especially as it relates to how hearings are conducted.

No amendment to such in 18.1 should be considered unless the government is willing to remove all current members of the Labour Relations Board and reappoint a full board through a much more stringent appointment process and a process that will result for the first time in recent history in some real balance between labour and management on the board.

Mr. Deputy Speaker, it is not acceptable for members of the board who may have been dismissed for one reason or another to be able to complete investigations and deliberations on cases that they have been involved in. Mr. Deputy Speaker, this is no more proper than it would be for those members opposite to continue on as MLAs after they are defeated in the next election. Mr. Speaker, I wont go on at length about this issue because it is obvious to any member of the public that people in any job must leave their duties when they are dismissed or their mandate expires.

Mr. Deputy Speaker, finally with regard to the provision that would allow the board or any appointee of the board to enter into premises and inspect, view work, material, machinery, appliances, articles, records, or documents, and to question any person, Mr. Deputy Speaker, or Mr. Speaker, these are powers ordinarily given only to police and safety offence regulators, and powers that are even in the hands of those professionals to be used only in very limited circumstances usually involving a court order.

Mr. Speaker, there is absolutely no need or justification for any adjudicative board to have such powers. Mr. Speaker, the Labour Relations Board is seen now as a board that is biased against management, and heavy-handed in the abuse of the powers that they already have. To give the board extraordinary powers of this kind in an atmosphere already poisoned by the boards perceived bias is nothing short of irresponsible.

Mr. Speaker, I hope the government will reconsider this Bill and pull it from the agenda. Otherwise, Mr. Speaker, this Bill must be defeated and for now I move to adjourn it.

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